Longtime Pasco trophy shop strives to make lasting memories

For Mark Howell, the key to running a successful business is more than just making gobs of money.

As the owner of Sandy’s Trophies in Pasco, Howell believes caring a lot about people is just as, if not more important, than the bottom line.

He and his first wife bought the established business from the original owner, C.E. “Sandy” Sandstedt, in 1987. Sandstedt started the business in 1964.

“So I’ve been here for 31 years,” Howell said.

To survive in the trophy business that long, the store has had to learn to diversify.

Howell and his staff have attended annual conferences to keep up to date on the latest products and technology.

Besides trophies, medals and plaques, Sandy’s Trophies also can create award clocks, crystal awards, cup trophies, acrylics, electric plates, display cases, signs, memory boxes and urns, among other items.

“Trophies are No. 1, but plaques and acrylics are getting popular,” Howell said. “People like to change things up.”

The company has numerous longtime customers in the Tri-Cities – individuals and companies such as McCurley Integrity Dealerships and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“The busiest time is May and June, when school is letting out,” he said. “We work with a lot of local businesses, too.”

A lot of companies also give out awards around that time.

“We do urns for funeral homes,” Howell said. “And we do work for other trophy shops outside of the Tri-Cities that don’t have the ability to do certain things. They’ll also do stuff for us. We trade stuff back and forth.”

Keeping a black bottom line has helped the business weather slow times.

“I try to manage the money well, so that during the slow times I’ve never had to lay anyone off,” Howell said.

That’s important to him.

“I just try to take care of everybody, mostly our employees,” he said.

It’s a loyal group, including some family members.

“The rookie has been here 20 years,” Howell said.

They all adhere to one simple rule, which Howell calls the key to their success.

“No. 1, we try to take care of the customer,” he said. “But we also have three sayings. First is, ‘You won’t believe what we can do for you.’ Second is, ‘Be the best you can be.’ And the last one is, ‘Sandy’s Trophies makes memories that last a lifetime.’ ”

But Howell is also a devoutly religious man.

His main company sign has “Jesus is Lord” on it.

Howell admits to battling drugs years ago – he last took drugs in 1994 – and there were a number of times he could have died.

But he didn’t. He survived, and he appreciates his second chance by caring about others so much, whether it’s his employees or customers.

Or even a reporter, who received sincere hugs from Howell during this interview not once, but twice.

Or just a neighbor or friendly face that pops in at the store in downtown Pasco.

“People stop in and say hi all of the time,” he said.

It’s why he volunteers as a board member for the Tri-Cities Water Follies. His store also creates the race trophies.

And why he has created and donated 64 plaques (at $150 each) to the Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Northwest program, which gives the plaques to the families of soldiers who have died in battle.

For Howell, these are the things that are important in life while he does business. It’s why he loves what he does.

“I don’t see myself retiring,” he said. “I love watching people smile when they come into the store. This is all about friendships and relationships.”

Sandy’s Trophies: 800 W. Lewis St., Pasco; 509-547-0007; sandystrophies.com.

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