Southgate Coins owners make work a family affair

There aren't many jobs working a retail counter that require a three-hour interview, but Rusty and Marie Goe, owners of Southgate Coins in Reno, take the hiring process very seriously.

The Goes go to great lengths to screen job candidates predominantly college-aged women because of the extensive work experience employees receive and because of the risks of working around rare and valuable coins. But their hiring practices also help build a reliable team that allows for a smooth flow of business.

The hiring process for Southgate Coins goes something like this:

* Interviewees send in a resume and include a brief essay about their impression of Southgate's Web site, particularly blog posts of employee birthday or hiring anniversary celebrations.

* Brief phone interview.

* Introductory over-the-counter meet-and-greet interview with store manager Maya Roberts.

* If they still pass muster, interviewees get an hour-long face-to-face interview with Marie Goe.

* If they still pass muster, they get an hour-plus long interview with Rusty Goe.

Why the lengthy hiring precautions?

"Getting a job here is totally different than a job at one of the big box retail stores or a restaurant," Rusty Goe says. "This is a totally different culture and environment.

"No. 1, we are dealing with high-dollar items. The girls have to be trusted. The years of experience have given us a discernment that we rely on. Most of the time it is a gut feeling, but we use that gut feeling if we think we are going in the right direction."

Employees serve as front-line help, working with walk-in customers and handling the phones. They not only get a healthy education in the field of numismatics, or rare coins, but they learn about photography in the store's coin studio, and writing for print and web copy through Southgate's Web site and quarterly coin publication. They also learn the full range of desktop publishing, as well as bookkeeping, shipping and receiving.

"It's all in a day's work for all of us," Roberts says. "You get to develop here."

Roberts took a job at Southgate after working at a bank and capping out in advancement and earning potential. She's been at Southgate for three years and has no plans on leaving.

Nicole Hoff has worked at Southgate for about 18 months while she studies health sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno. Hoff interviewed for a job at Southgate after working at a tanning salon.

"I needed something where people took me more seriously," she says. "Some people are really surprised that I am in this area of work, and it was something I completely had no knowledge of but when you do get into it, it's fascinating. You constantly are learning new things every day."

Hoff's knowledge of coins was limited to the change in her purse and her grandfather's coin collection which she now calls, without hesitation, a pile of junk.

"It had sentimental value, and I appreciate that fact, but they are not rare coins; they were just a hodgepodge."

Hoff, 20, says in addition to what she's learned about coins and about running a small business, her employment at Southgate also has helped her hold her own in conversations with adults twice her age.

"I definitely started here a lot more timid," she says.

Southgate Coins employs five women as front-line staff along with its two owners. Rusty Goe says he's not above hiring male employees, but his all-female staff tends to be more focused and works as a sisterhood.

The Goes, who don't have children of their own, instead focus paternal attentions on their college-aged employees. Birthdays, anniversaries and weddings are regularly celebrated and free-lunch Fridays are a weekly occurrence.

"This is like a small family," Rusty Goe says. "We work real close with one another, and you couldn't have a lot of those same things that go on in high school, where you have got the boys mixed in with the girls."

Southgate Coins usually posts new job openings at UNR and receives 75 to 100 applicants for every job posted.

The Goes know that their employees eventually leave the store to pursue work in their field of study. But they'll be leaving with a well-rounded business background and with a great deal of respect for their boss. A commemorative plaque on Rusty Goe's desk from his employees says "Thanks to the Best Boss Ever."


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