Brad Montgomery was fit, robust, brimming with energy. He had the stamina to run road races in the unrelenting mountains outside Uniontown.
“People often see me pushing products up and down the street. They joke that I must be the healthiest guy in town because I’m walking all the time,” said Montgomery, who, as the delivery person and doer of virtually everything at Hickson’s Office Supply, HAS to be robust and vigorous.
Lately, however, the downtown Washington merchant hasn’t felt or looked that way. Montgomery has a slings on both arms and a lot of discomfort.
The evening of March 12, while scurrying to a Washington Rotary Club meeting, the club president fell. When he regained consciousness in an ambulance, he was en route to Washington Hospital with a knot on the back of his head, severe shoulder injuries and no clue as to what had happened.
“One of my doctors thought I’d been hit by a car, but I don’t know,” said Montgomery, 51, of Washington.
He was hospitalized for five days, a longer duration than anticipated because his broken right shoulder required surgery. Both shoulders were separated.
“I had never been hurt in my whole life,” he said.
Montgomery missed 3 1/2 days of work, but no more. Through perseverance, and the generous support of Rotary members, he was able to clear a backlog of orders that occurred during his absence and has been able to work on a regular – though abbreviated – basis in recent weeks.
He said about “eight or 10” members provide rides to and from Hickson’s, which is owned by his mother, Alice. They lift or carry items and help with orders and other duties. Montgomery is highly appreciative of their assistance.
“The theme of Rotary is service, and in a small way, this illustrates that,” he said. “I’ve found that we’re not just a club. We’re friends who look out for each other.”
They include spouses Susan and Bill Price, retired teacher and superintendent, respectively, in the Burgettstown Area School District.
“It’s difficult to do anything when you can’t move your arms,” said Susan Price, of Burgettstown.
“I’ve been going in in the mornings for three or four hours to get invoices taken care of and get orders filled. I’ve been trying to help because if someone goes to his business and it’s closed, they’ll go somewhere else, like Office Max or Staples.
“I think our car can drive every inch of our stretch of Route 18 (by itself). But you do that for people who are friends.”
Instead of working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday – the store’s regular hours – Montgomery is now there generally from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I do a lot of preparation of orders and make sure they are delivered,” he said. “In the afternoon, I place orders for the next day.”
He can lift no more than three pounds, so he cannot place items on a dolly or inside his car and deliver them. Compassionate clients, he said, have been picking up their orders at his store.
“My customers have been very kind. They say they know what I am going through and are willing to help until I get better. I will make it up to them.”
They can count on that, for the Montgomery family is almost as much of a Washington institution as the business it operates. The clan has followed a tradition that Paul B. Hickson started in 1945 and ran until 1980, when he sold it to Alice Montgomery. Brad’s father, David, worked there until 2006, when he died.
“Paul Hickson was a very successful businessman, and I’m proud to say we’ve been in our business almost as long as he was,” said Brad Montgomery, father of two daughters. “We’re proud we’ve been able to carry on the legacy of Paul Hickson.”
This is Brad’s 30th year in the store. A 1979 graduate of Peters Township High School, he began working there in 1983. He has rarely taken a sick day since and often goes years without a vacation.
His diligence has helped keep Hickson’s going, despite economic swoons and expanding competition that crushes many small Main Street businesses.
“I think everyone has a lot of competition for customers, especially during downturns,” Montgomery said. “But I’ve also found that if people feel comfortable with you, they’ll come back (for business).”
His recovery will take time, a realization that hit while he was hospitalized. “I knew I had to concentrate on getting well, but knew I had a tough time ahead.”
He hopes to have one cast removed within a couple of weeks and the other a few weeks after that. Two to three months of physical therapy will follow before he can try to go full bore again.
In the meantime, Montgomery will do his best in the city where he has lived since 1990 and where he loves to do business. And where he gets by with a lot of help from his Rotary friends.
“I would like it to be known how much I appreciate the people in this city. I’m very honored to have a business in town. It’s a nice place to live and work.”