WOODLAND — Lewis River Auto Licensing is Amy Tabor’s home away from home, and she has made it feel that way, for herself and her customers.
“I just want people to feel good when they come in,” Tabor said. “This is something they have to do, money they are required to pay, and I hope that the atmosphere here makes it as pleasant as possible.”
The character of Lewis River Auto Licensing is unexpected for anyone who has visited the usual sort of auto-licensing location. No fluorescent lighting here, no bare white walls or plain vinyl floors.
Tabor has used earthy tones, softer lighting and vintage decorations. A line of cushioned chairs provides comfortable waiting, and youngsters can play in a small children’s area.
“I spend all day, six days a week here,” Tabor said. “I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted my store to be a reflection of my own personality, as much as possible.”
Tabor and her husband, Toby, opened their licensing storefront at Woodland’s 1935 Belmont Loop, Suite C, last month. The location is convenient — just off the Interstate 5 exit on the opposite side of the freeway overpass from Walmart.
The shop’s hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Per state rules, the store is closed Sundays and all state holidays.
Customers can purchase vehicle and vessel tags and license plates, receive handicap placards, complete title transfers and have documents notarized at this location.
Tabor works at the counter herself every day, but she is also training a part-time employee, Sarah Jendro, to help out.
“Our reception in the community has been wonderful,” Tabor said. “People really like not having to travel outside of Woodland to run all their errands. And many have said they appreciate our environment and our fast, friendly service.”
Tabor, her husband and their two children, ages 12 and 15, live in Kalama. The commute to her business takes Tabor about 15 minutes each way, but she doesn’t mind the drive. She’s used to it.
Prior to opening her own business, she worked for many years at a licensing shop in Longview, also about 15 minutes from home.
And her husband works in Vancouver each day, running the couple’s second business, Floor Coverings International, which they have owned for 11 years.
This combined experience is what tempted Tabor to take on the auto licensing business when the opportunity presented itself.
“I told my husband, ‘I have experience with licensing and you have experience with running a business — let’s go for it,’” she said.
The state does not allow licensing sub-agencies to be located within five miles of each other in this part of the state. So when Karen Sherman retired and closed her sub-agency shop, Sherman Auto Licensing, in Woodland last summer, the Tabors had their opening.
They contacted the state in December, went through the interviewing and application process, and were successfully appointed as a subagent. It took many more months to prepare the location and have the required, secure data lines installed, Tabor said.
Lewis River Auto Licensing’s location on Belmont Loop — Sherman’s Auto Licensing had been located on Davidson Avenue in Woodland — was selected for its close proximity to I-5, the adequate parking lot and the comfortable building accommodations.
“It will take people awhile to get accustomed to our location, but it’s important for them to realize that this is not a new location — we are an entirely new business,” Tabor said.
She’s working on signage so the location will be clearly indicated from the road, but large signs are expensive, she said. For now, she has a sandwich board and a large sign on her storefront.
The shop is located off Exit 22, east of the freeway. If visitors take the first right onto Belmont Loop, Lewis River is in the first block of suites on the right, located next door to Woodland Guns & Ammo.