Bob Gobin belongs to the second of four familial generations that have worked at the office supply and furniture store his mother, Sylvia, founded.
Bob Gobin belongs to the second of four familial generations that have worked at the office supply and furniture store his mother, Sylvia, founded.

It’s a southern Colorado business story that began more than 50 years ago in Rocky Ford. That’s where Sylvia Gobin purchased an office supply store (which has since closed) that eventually expanded to seven locations in the region, employing four generations of her family.

Bob Gobin, Sylvia’s son, is now president of the business. He said, when asked why she purchased the business — a rarity for a woman in 1967 — Sylvia would reply, “I got tired of playing bridge every day.”

Bob said it was especially rare for a woman to enter the world of office supplies.

“It’s pretty much a male-dominated industry even to this day,” Bob said. “Shortly after she started the business, she acquired another business in La Junta. It was a business that was an office supply and gift store. Not too long after that, she closed out the gift side and focused on office supplies and business equipment.”

Gobin’s would go on to expand into Lamar, Cañon City, Pueblo, Alamosa, Salida and Colorado Springs. After 50 years in southern Colorado, the Gobin name has become such a brand that the business rarely invests in traditional marketing, according to Bob, who said the family relies on word-of-mouth to drive sales.

“We’re dedicated to this geographical area. Southern Colorado is much more of a relational business environment. Whereas, you get into Denver and big metro areas — they’re more transactional,” Bob said. “If we do our job right and do a good job for the customers, they’re loyal.”

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Gobin’s has remained a family effort. Bob began working for his mother in 1973 and took over as president after his father died in 1982. Bob’s (now retired) brother, nephews and grandson have had different roles in Gobin’s. Bob is proud of that.

“If you look at the statistics for private and family-owned businesses, they very rarely make it to the third generation,” he said.

To try and generate more interest in the family business, Bob did something different with his grandson Tyler than he had with other family employees.

“We had him go out and work for somebody else [first]. I think it’s important that they understand that there’s not a sense of entitlement just because their name is Gobin,” Bob said. “We want them to go out and work for another person or another company. They need to learn the work ethics that are required in every work environment. They’re actually held to a higher standard than the other employees here.”

Not all family members are involved in the business, but the ones who are must be passionate about it, Bob said.

As Gobin’s evolved in southern Colorado, it also had to evolve in its sector. A few years ago Gobin’s shifted away from competing as solely an office supply and furniture store, an area dominated by big-box stores like Staples and Office Max, and into office technology sales and service.

“Staples and Office Max — they can’t service copiers and they can’t support software. We decided to move out of the price war that the commodities generate and go into something that required some expertise and technical capability,” Bob said. “We’re focused now strictly on business equipment as well as software and the service of all the equipment. Our primary lines are Canon, Konica Minolta, Lexmark — and we sell document management and cost containment software.”

Gobin’s also serves as a training center for Canon.

“All of our technicians are trained just like if they went to a factory training school,” Bob said. “Then we train all our technicians and, in some cases, we will train technicians from other dealers. We do that to ensure the quality of the training and the competency of our technicians.”

The southern Colorado company has been hiring as necessary and will continue to add employees who complement the family culture. But Bob isn’t actively seeking employees in order to grow.

“We always look at opportunities to expand, but we’re not looking to expand for the sake of expansion,” he said. “It has to make business sense.”

Established: 1967

Employees: 52

Contact: 719-544-2324 (Pueblo)

Location: Pueblo (headquarters) 615 N. Santa Fe Ave.

Disclosure: Gobins is one of the vendors for Colorado Publishing House, the umbrella company that includes the Colorado Springs Business Journal.