OAKHURST — When Christel Hays opened Sierra Global Tech (now Oakhurst Business Center) back in 2018, she had a somewhat self-serving purpose that would benefit others, as well. She wanted a local store that could offer everything she needed in one stop. She especially didn’t want to travel to Fresno to accomplish tasks she felt should be available locally. Since several businesses could offer parts of what she needed but none offered all of them, she decided to start her own.
Christel is heavily into logistics, her own and others’, and she partnered with Ashley Kruser to start the business in their original location in the tiny center next to Camarena Health. Christel says, “I was a notary signing agent, and I needed a reliable place to pick up and drop off packages with time-critical arrival dates.” When Ashley, fresh out of high school, wanted to start her own business, her “Auntie Christel” lent full support and still does. Christel leaves most of the day-to-day customer interface to Ashley and the on-scene staff, while she performs background tasks and calls herself “retired.” Still, she’s there whenever the business needs her help, even from remote locations when she travels.
Ashley has a four-generation commitment to this area and was determined that she wanted to stay rooted here. Christel supported that decision. The two go “way back” since Ashley’s mom and Christel have been best friends since they were three years old.
“We cut our teeth on emergencies,” Christel says about the business. In July 2018, just as they were putting the finishing touches on the opening of their original location, the Ferguson Fire started, followed by a pretty significant winter, a mild spring (thank heavens), then COVID, then the Creek Fire, followed by the damaging windstorm of January, 2021. In July 2021, the River Fire started in the footprint of the devastating Harlow Fire and threatened the town of Oakhurst. Thanks to the dedication and quick work of our firefighters, it was stopped in its tracks pretty quickly. Christel and Ashley, however, wondered if adversity was stalking them.
Through all these events Oakhurst Business Center persisted and thrived. In fact, they found they needed much more space than they had in the original location. Come May 2021, Oakhurst Business Center moved to its current location at 40761 Highway 41, Suite 5, in the Bear Paw Quilts shopping center, sandwiched between Pedal Forward and Yosemite Axe Throwing.
Nearly as soon as they made the move, they discovered they were close to being out of space again to provide all the services they wished to offer. But the Highway 41 site has some real advantages, such as easily-accessible parking in front of the store. There’s even enough room for folks who come for DMV services to bring their motor home or big rig to have the VIN number verified.
One of OBC’s biggest offerings currently is digital fingerprinting. Instead of having to go to Fresno or Madera to get it done, OBC can do it locally. A list of their services is extensive.
- Vehicle Registration and Title Service
- Live Scan Fingerprinting
- Notary Public services
- Mailbox rental
- Packing and shipping
- FedEx, UPS, USPS services
- Copying, Printing, Faxing, Scanning, Emailing (including encrypted)
- Large-Format Printing
- Building Plans printed, copied and scanned
- Binding and lamination
- Document shredding
- Business services
- Computer rental
- Photo Prints
- Canvas and poster printing
In addition they offer souvenirs of the area and Yosemite, cold drinks, key cutting and a few office supplies. Christel cites as her goal adding to that stock of office supplies to further serve their customers.
A customer might well ask “What don’t you do?” and since Christel and Ashley hate to say “no” to anyone if they can find a way to fulfill a customer’s request, they’ll do it. They see themselves as especially valuable to their older clientele who might not be so computer-savvy, such as transferring photos to digital and getting important papers notarized.
COVID took its toll on everyone, OBC included. Although currently adequately staffed, Christel and Ashley went through a period of struggling to find employees. They’d schedule interviews, and the prospective employee failed to show up or were clearly not really in the market for a job, something many local businesses have faced. But, Christel says, “We got really lucky and found some incredible team members.”
Asked what her biggest satisfaction is, Christel said, “seeing the smiles on the faces of happy customers when we do for them what they need done.” That’s especially true when the customer arrives with the expectation that OBC won’t be able to accomplish what they need. As a former network programmer, she has loads of computer components that she’s trying to recycle. Sometimes she receives requests prefaced by “I know you won’t have this, but . . .” Christel will delve into her storehouse of parts and pulls out exactly what the purchaser needs. That puts a smile on everyone’s face.
Christel’s biggest frustration? Getting the word out to the community that OBC exists. She says she hasn’t yet found the perfect platform that drives people to her door. But she’s working on it, and she’s determined to succeed.
If you need something done quickly and efficiently or if it’s something you can’t accomplish yourself, contact Oakhurst Business Center at 559-683-2388, visit their Facebook page or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Business hours are currently 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. They are closed Sundays.
Photos courtesy of Oakhurst Business Center and Sierra News Online archives.