PEOPLE | PETS | COMMUNITY

Hometown Heroes: Johnson Insurance & Rick’s Automotive

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When Rikki Dingle was a child, she recalls that shopping trips often turned into half-day excursions. “My dad, Rick, would say hello to everyone in the store and shake their hands,” she recalled, “and three hours later, we’d finally leave.” It was only later that Rikki understood why this was so important.

Rick, who was a Vietnam veteran, was a war hero who earned a bronze star and a purple heart. He founded Rick’s Automotive in 1981, and for his customers, he had a heart of gold.

“My Dad told me, ‘You see how I was able to look everyone in the eye and shake every hand? Not everyone can do that. We’re there for our customers. If something goes wrong, we sort it out together.”

Rikki remembered those words when she inherited Rick’s Automotive six years ago, after her father passed away. She lives that philosophy every day – and it’s a philosophy she shares with fellow businesswoman, Tish Carr.

Tish’s mother, Lora Johnson, started Johnson Insurance Agency in 1982 and Tish, who has worked in the insurance industry for 25 years, took the helm four years ago. Like Rikki, Tish had a parent who was a shining example of dedication, compassion, and commitment to her customers – and she instilled a love of animals, too.

Rikki and Tish are both on the board of directors at Concern For Animals (CFA), an Olympia, Washington-based 501(c)3. Tish is the board president, while Rikki is the vice president.

“CFA provides a range of services, including low-cost spay and neuter and a food bank that helps families stay together,” Tish explained. “We often provide low-income families with enough pet food for up to one month.”

When Tish took over Johnson Insurance, her mom, now 70, was there to help and offer advice. “I still use my mom a lot for guidance,” Tish said. But for Rikki, taking over the family business was far different.

“It was hard,” Rikki recalled. “It wasn’t what I expected. People would say, ‘Can I talk to the boss?’ but I am the boss,” she said. “I think 60 to 70% of businesses taken over by family members fail, so there was added pressure to succeed.” But taking over her father’s business also showed her what a difference he’d made for his customers.

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“People would come in asking to see him. I had to tell them he’d passed away…I was consoling people who were crying because their mechanic had died. But that’s the impact someone can have. He wanted to take care of his customers because they’re family. It’s not just that one person. It’s that whole family. We share a bond – we support one another.”

Tish concurred. “We’ve covered our clients for multiple generations. I’ve had customers email me five times just to say ‘thank you’ – you really can’t ask for more than that. And while my mom is retired, she answers the phone for me twice a week. You should see our customers’ faces light up!”

Rick’s Automotive and Johnson Insurance are true local, family-owned businesses – something that’s becoming increasingly rare. “We’re a part of the community. We know our customers and their families. We work really hard for them and to help the animals in our community,” Tish said.

Rikki, who comes from a long line of animal people, currently shares her life with six animals: three dogs, an indoor kitty, a resident outdoor kitty who appreciates Rikki’s kindness, and a senior horse. Rikki’s current horse, who is 21, lives a pampered life; her prior horse, who she inherited from her grandfather, lived to the ripe age of 39. “Animals seem to know when you’re an animal person,” she said with a laugh. “They just show up at our house. They must have directions scratched into a nearby tree – like, ‘There’s a sucker in this direction; they’ll take you in!’”

Tish shares her life with her seven-month-old French bulldog, The Fonz (Fonzie for short) who is best friends with Rikki’s dog, Pickles. “The Fonz goes to work with me every day. He’s almost never by himself,” Tish stated.

Tish and Rikki are as compassionate with their customers as they are with their animals. They’re accustomed to helping people during some of their most difficult times – and they’re happy to do it.

“In our line of work, we save people from some bad situations,” Rikki said. “I’m extra protective with moms, grandmas, and military wives who might be mistreated. I’m trying to eradicate the perception that car people rip you off. My friends would call my dad if their check engine light went on, even after they went to college. That’s the kind of relationship we have with our customers.” Tish concurred: “We work hard for our customers – and we’re here for them.”

“Through our businesses, we can give back. Taking your car to Rick’s Automotive helps the local community and helps local animals, too,” Rikki said.

“When you get a quote from Johnson Insurance – even if you don’t purchase a policy – I donates $5.00 to CFA,” Tish added. Rikki is looking forward to this year’s Doggone Easter Egg Hunt, which supports CFA. “It was so much fun that I didn’t want to leave last year!” she said with a laugh. “Everyone had a blast.”

“This is the fifth year that Johnson Insurance will have a booth at Pet Connection Magazine’s Doggone Easter Egg Hunt,” Tish added. “Come see us – and get your picture taken with the Easter bunny!”

Sometimes, you don’t realize just how heroic someone was until they’ve passed away. And sometimes, everyday heroes are among us, quietly making a difference by keeping us safe, protected, and on the road, ready for all of life’s adventures.

Rick’s Automotive is proud to offer discounts for seniors and the military. To learn more about Rick’s Automotive, call (360) 491-4644. To learn more about Johnson Insurance, visit www.farmersagent.com/tcarr. And to learn more about CFA, including volunteer opportunities, visit www.concernforanimals.org