For more than half a century, drivers commuting between Bend and Redmond have passed the Meglitsch family business, Poles Galore. But the days of Poles Galore could end soon if Bill Meglitsch decides to put down his saw and hatchet. Slowing business and dwindling energy are leading Meglitsch to consider retirement.
“It's just me,” Meglitsch said, noting his father, who started the wood pole and furniture business, died 30 years ago. “I make everything right outside.”
The 83-year-old Bend resident has been working with wood his entire life, and at Poles Galore on U.S. Highway 97 for the past 42 years.
As he rocked in one of his pine rocking chairs Friday afternoon, he recalled selling a total of 2,500 bed frames and 946 rocking chairs since 1984.
“Years ago, it took me a day, day and a half, to build a rocking chair,” he said over the over the icy wind and the smell of juniper wood burning inside his father's former cabin. “Today it takes me a couple of days.”
Meglitsch grew up in Mill City and started assisting his father, Albert Meglitsch, early on, cutting piling and power poles with cross-cut saws after school.
“A lot of people call them the misery whip,” he said, referring to the saw he used.
He recalled the largest tree he ever cut measured 118 feet in length.
In 1948, the Meglitsch family moved to Sisters, and his father started Poles Galore. For the next two decades, Meglitsch worked for Barclay Logging Co., logging in woods east of the Cascades. Meanwhile, his father moved the business to its current location on U.S. Highway 97.
When Meglitsch joined his father in 1971, the company only sold poles and posts used for fencing. Meglitsch started making wooden furniture, ranging from bed frames to night stands and rocking chairs, about a decade later.
“When I started in '71 (business) was booming, and it was good until 2007,” he said. “I'd be out here at 8 in the morning and they'd be waiting at the gate.”
Throughout the years, he said, the highway has kept Poles Galore alive, drawing in curious visitors.
“If I didn't have the highway, I couldn't sell this stuff ... the beds, the posts and poles,” he said.
For Meglitsch, the best part of business is interacting with customers.
“Year after year, people just come back and visit me,” he said, noting he's even met a few celebrities. “I like talking to people about politics, foreign events.”
Bev Meglitsch, Bill's wife of 55 years, said she can't see her husband ever retiring completely.
“I have a lot of guys who want to take it over, but I'm just going to keep the land for me to do something on,” he said. “But there's a big question mark there. Who knows, I might keep it open for another year or two.”