At the heart of this story is family and a legacy of customer service that stretches back more than 100 years.
“I attribute that length of time to doing the right thing all the time,” says Jeff Kavich, president and CEO, All Makes in Omaha.
All styles, all trends, all price points. All Makes Office Equipment has been Omaha-based and family-owned since 1918. The fourth generation is in charge now — Jeff and his sister, Amee Zetzman.
“It was something my sister and I grew up with and around and became very familiar with at a young age,” Jeff says.
Jeff and Amee’s grandfather, Lazier Kavich, started with the original All Makes Typewriter Company in 1938, 20 years after it was founded by his father-in-law, Harry Ferer. A rags-to-riches success story, Lazier added government surplus and used office furniture to the mix, prompting the name change in 1960 to All Makes Office Equipment Company. Five years later, Lazier’s son, Larry, officially came on board. By 1983, he was president of the company.
“I knew from the time I was 9 that I was going to be going into the family business,” Larry says. “Everything I learned, I learned from being there and watching (my father) do what he did. He was a very honorable guy. He was a great guy. People liked him.”
Larry says his father taught him the value of hard work: “If you want to play, you have to pay,” Lazier would tell him.
He credits All Makes’ success to honesty, consistency and “sincerely caring.” One of Larry’s greatest thrills? Passing the business on to his children, Jeff and Amee, in 2004.
“The No. 1 thing that we were always taught is the fable of the golden goose,” Amee says. “My brother and I both have a picture of a goose in our office that our father gave us as a reminder to always take care of the goose.”
A mother of two, Amee attended college in Colorado and then started her career in Southern California as an accountant. What lured her back to Omaha?
“To be honest, it was earthquake, fire, flood, earthquake,” she says. “I called my brother first and I said, ‘What would you think if I came back and worked at All Makes?’ My father said, ‘Why would you call Jeff before you would call me?’ and I said, “He is my contemporary. He is the one I would be working with eventually.’”
Jeff, a father of two, says he always knew, like his father, that he would be part of the company: “At a young age, I would go to the office on Saturday mornings with my dad, and I’d hear, ‘Someday, son, you’ll be doing this or you’ll sit here. You’ll steer the ship someday.’”
When Jeff was a child, he says the All Makes showroom was filled with nothing but desks, chairs and filing cabinets.
“If you walk through the showroom today,” he says,“you’ll see some soft seating, you’ll see some work stations, you’ll see some demountable wall products, lighting. You’ll see so many different things that are so different than what the industry looked like 30 years ago.”
At the same time, some things haven’t changed.
“We started as a typewriter company, and we still sell and service typewriters,” Amee says. “Even though it seems archaic and old fashioned, there are several businesses in our markets that still utilize a typewriter.”
Proud father Larry says Jeff and Amee are taking great care of the golden goose. They say they learned from the best.
“Having us both watch and observe Larry and Lazier over the years taught us how to run this business. It doesn’t mean we know how to run other businesses, but we know how to run the furniture business,” Jeff says.
Amee adds, “We always strive for honesty in everything we do — whether that’s dealing with a client or with a co-worker. … Our father taught us if you always tell the truth, you don’t need to remember what you’ve told someone. Those are words that we live by.”
“It’s nice that Omaha is a city that allows you to thrive as a family business.”
− Amee Zetzman, executive vice president/chief financial officer, All Makes