“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.”
— James Oppenheim
Baloo is more than 125 pounds. Ashton hits the scales at 45 pounds.
The canines’ owner, Charles “Chuck” Ellard, keeps them cozy in a back room of his Pacific Digital Works (formerly known as Lazerquick of Newport).
When the big Great Dane-Mastiff mix greets a willing customer, he’s a big baby. Ashton is quick and happy to also slobber over the customer.
Chuck is tall — 6’4’’ — and his eyes are intense black. He looks at you square on, listens intently, and has his own rat-ta-tat retorts when things get going upstairs in his head.
That’s usually 24/7, 365 days a year.
Deep Dive columns sometimes come to me when I end up as a customer of some local joint. In the case of Pacific Digital in Newport, next to JC Market, I had several projects for them to undertake — designing a brochure for a non-profit; scanning some of my Vietnam slides for my new short story collection; photocopying documents for a talk I did in Portland.
Service with a smile goes a long way, and Chuck is there interacting with customers.
He tells me his life story, a lot of it off the record. That’s okay with me, but many times — as I tell the 31-year-old Chuck — the best fodder for my column is the gritty and gutsy stuff of legends or just the events in life that demonstrate incredible resiliency.
He realizes now that his life has shifted from a fly-by-the-seat youth and young man to someone with employees to pay, bills to track and loans to keep on track.
“I’ve always been lazy, but when I hit high school, I didn’t like the structure of the school,” he points out as we eat food at Mazatlán. That was Newport High. “I’d get my work done and then got bored. Got tired of the busy work. I missed 46 days of school my freshman year.”
He alludes to some little disruptive things in his life but, for the most part, Chuck says he just walked around town while ditching school. “I did nothing, and I know it sounds silly.”
Then sophomore year came around. “I knew I didn’t want to sit here, at school, all day.” That’s when he got hooked up with alternative high school. There were three hours a day in-school attendance and then the rest was up to him to find his path. He said he was excelling at the alternative school. “I did not want to be at the whim of the teacher’s work ethic. It was my work ethic that counted.”
He could have graduated his junior year, but he attributes laziness to having to drag it out by taking physics and wood shop classes as his final requirements. He didn’t walk in graduation.
He and I talk about today’s youth, the over-diagnosis of ODD, oppositional defiance order, a rather broad pseudo psychology label pasted onto guys like Chuck, even onto me at 63. We agree guys like Albert Einstein and women like Rachel Carson, if growing up today, would be put on IEPs or behavior plans as ODD and Attention Deficit Disorder.
His life and attitudes — he lives in Logsden with his girlfriend Keely, 28, who’s from Chicago and assistant pool director for Newport. They live 25 miles from town on an acre and a half with their dogs fulfilling their need for rural lifestyle.
“Get this . . . the other day, I watched a wild turkey attack a deer. You don’t see that every day,” Chuck said with a laugh, emphasizing that the deer just looked exasperated and blasé about the fowl-vs-ungulate skirmish.
The bullied ‘fat kid’
The year 2003 saw the 14-year-old Chuck Ellard overweight, sick and on a heavy course of antibiotics. Finally, that 5’10’’ chubby frame stretched six inches and shed 40 pounds in one year.
“I had no friends in school.”
Some of the formative years he alludes to — his dad wasn’t “present” as he was a self-centered, narcissist and superficial man. These are all Chuck’s words, with the caveat, “I love him to death.”
It’s clear the business end of things got rolling with his mother, Rose Reed, who bought the Lazerquick franchise with help from her brother. That was 1999. They had moved from Hillsboro where the young Chuck went to McKinley Elementary.
He was good with wood working, and did roofing, framing and concrete work around the area post high school.
“All of a sudden I am inside and dry.” He ended up helping his mother in 2015. His mom, 67, bought out her brother. In 2006, Pacific Digital Works, Inc. was incorporated, but the name Lazerquick stuck.
In 2018, Chuck says is mother almost died. It was sink or swim for her son keeping the business afloat.
“I’ve always loved a challenge. The business was shoved onto me. Sink or swim. If this fails, then it’s your fault.”
I ran into Chuck Jan. 1, 2020, when he just took over the business. He was getting deep into the accounting side of things. He’s been spending money on advertising. He’s has had a story on his business published in some local media.
Small town news — A new outdoor sign is up on the front of the business. He attributes the graphics and logo style to one of his employees.
There are four full-time workers there, including Chuck. He says he pays a living wage, and when the eight hours are up, he expects his workers not to take the work home. He also understands low-wage jobs from his construction days where he had to take on a second job just to pay the bills.
He is his employees’ best advocate for self-care and downtime.
His biggest conundrum now is he doesn’t like it that a lot of people around town recognize him from the business. He’s a member of the chambers of commerce in Newport and Toledo.
Finding a path: Part II
Chuck and I met when he was getting ready to head to Chicago for the Winter holiday. He was not looking forward to it. “Man, I hate cities, and that place is big.”
His girlfriend’s family is from there, and she grew up in the Windy City. I caught him after he had returned. “Man, it wasn’t so bad. Her family really liked me.”
“I have this strange psychological urge to have kids. To make a little Chuck. To do better than I have.”
This is the stuff that the city movers and shakers need to absorb — here is a businessman, afraid of getting into local politics because of the scrutiny and the strife and in-fighting.
Bottom line, though, is the brain drain, the youth flight: “The area doesn’t offer much in the form of entertainment. There’s no low-income housing. No nightlife. Young people don’t want to be raised in a tourist town.”
While that is all true, Chuck hopes to have two or three children and raise them in Logsden where they can be around hiking, heading to mountaintops, hunting.
We grapple with the issues around education, since he has a bunch of opinions on the subject and I have been teaching for more than 40 years — college, in prisons, in alternative schools and PK12, to name just a few.
Chuck respects people who have experience in the world, not just because we might be long in the tooth. Hands on, out of the four walls and 30-desk classroom, much more applicable real-life learning, and creative instruction, these are all part of the deal.
He knows, in his mind, that homeschooling for his future kids is not the answer — “Public school is a place where the kids learn a lot from socialization . . . being with others.”
He’s quick to riff against all the Facetime and constant Facebook and email checking young people and not-so-young people engage in.
Part of the school experience he believes is integral in democracy is having young people be both critical thinkers and tolerant of others with different opinions and beliefs.
“People need to be taught manners and socializing. What do we value the most in the world? Being with other people, social circles.”
He’s self-effacing, telling me he doesn’t think he is really all that remarkable, not having a career path when he was young, and just doing what he could to get his truck and rent paid. “I act a lot different now. I didn’t care about my life, didn’t have animals to take care. Now it’s scary because I have people who depend on me. They have families too. The bills and banks have so much power over me now.”
Everything comes down to politics
Even though Chuck wants to skirt all the politics that pop up in his store and amongst his cohorts, we still cover a lot of ground.
He is definitely for his constitutional rights, and we talk about Second Amendment issues. He’s happy to have that conversation about being a gun owner.
Yet, on one hand his love of the outdoors is paired up with his belief the environment and nature should be protected. He thinks agencies like the EPA and BLM have been both gutted and politicized.
“We all live in a giant fish tank,” Chuck says. “That’s why I care about the environment. I don’t want to have to have masks just to breathe the air. Leaving this planet right now and anytime soon is not an alternative.”
He’s upset about pseudo-science and the hard hit real scientists working for the people have taken.
When I ask what difference he has seen from age 21 and then now, 10 years later, he is definitive: “People aren’t as open and can’t have contradictory views without getting angry. They can’t have a debate without shouting.”
He is all about the right to express one’s self, and he continued to tell me he is anti-authoritarian. “As long as you are not hurting anyone, I think we should stay out of other people’s business.”
The other change he has seen in a decade is that “people don’t want to help people. If we didn’t want people to be homeless, we’d be able to solve it.” He is really upset about the level of homelessness in Lincoln County and the country.
He admits to being a real animated person, by nature. He is not afraid to express opinions, but he admits that he is both extrovert-introvert, so he isn’t hot about people knowing him for his business on his downtime.
So, the gun-owning Chuck is also quick to decry the private prison systems, the fact that there are no mental hospitals for people in need, and the fact that, thus far, the United States isn’t getting passing grades on infrastructure and how it treats its less-well-off and those in dire straits.
“People should not be sleeping out on the street. A society is judged on how we treat the worse off and the ones dealt the crappiest things in life.”
Business isn’t business as usual
As we do for many Deep Dive columns, a quick Q&A gives more voice to the person being featured in his or her own words. Chuck’s a busy fellow, and he took time to answer these:
Paul: What will you tell your children, especially if you have a son, what it takes to make it in the world as an adult.
Chuck: I will tell him it takes hard work, a good attitude, good people skills and a little bit of luck. Also, not to have a cynical perspective of the world, because there are good people out there but you just have to find them.
Paul: You went from a disenfranchised youth to a hard worker. What do you account that transition to deep down as a man?
Chuck: I started to realize that to be able to enjoy things in life, nothing come easy. The saying ‘easy come, easy go’ has had real lasting effect with me. The only things that I value for myself are the things I have worked for. I grew up poor — before we moved to Newport — so we didn’t have much so when I realized how hard I work is what I get back, I wanted more.
Paul: What is good customer service in your words?
Chuck: Good customer service is helping them solve their problems. Helping them to understand what they need for the job. Then sending them off with either the job to help them or the skills/tools/information to solve it. Also, I believe the job isn’t over until both people are happy.
Paul: Business is business. That is an old standard which I believe you are at least morphing or stretching. Discuss how you feel about the customer-business owner relationship?
Chuck: I would disagree with ‘business is business.’ I personally like to help people. I am trying to help my customers succeed in their ventures/businesses. The whole ‘business is business’ concept to me is a little impersonal. I see it as when my customer succeeds, so do I. So, I try my best to help them succeed.
Paul: Define loyalty in your own words.
Chuck: This is tough one. It can mean being there when times are hard, whether it is financially or emotionally. When my friends have been in hard times, they have lashed out at me and did hurtful things. However, I was still there for them. So, there is one definition. Another is could be having someone’s back in a dispute, even if you know they’re wrong. Also, you could define loyalty as standing up for a friend when other people are talking bad about them.
Paul: Define patriotism in your own words.
Chuck: I would define it as being proud of the people/country we live in. To care about your fellow countryman without letting politics or religion taint your view of them.
Paul: Define community in your own words.
Chuck: Community to me is a group of people living in an area trying to better themselves, better their area and trying to make a safe, happy place to live, work, and play. It isn’t an easy thing and everyone has to participate for it to work.
Paul: Define success in your own words.
Chuck: Success is a tough one to define. Everyone has their own definition. I think for me, at least, it is to be happy. To be happy is difficult in this world. So, for me to be happy I try to do these things:
• not be discouraged by others success or failures
• to live by a standard that when you wake up and feel OK about yourself as a person
• to let go of things that are out of your control
• to conquer your own inner thoughts that inhibit you to do the things you are capable of
The world isn’t a fair place so to me judging success by the amount of money you make or the places you have been isn’t success. So, to reiterate, success is how happy you are.
Paul: Juggling is so far removed from your work as a businessman. How does juggling fit into your personality?
Chuck: I really don’t know how it fits my personality. I really only juggle for tranquility and focus. I love juggling for the fact when I juggle, it is the center of my focus. You could say it is like meditation: I forget all my worries and problems while I juggle. I don’t get many things that force my attention away from work/life.
Paul Haeder is a writer living and working in Lincoln County. He has two books coming out, one a short story collection, “Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam,” and a non-fiction book, “No More Messing Around: The Good, Bad and Ugly of America's Education System.”