If you’ve ever been to a fundraiser in town, you’ve likely experienced the personality that is Dick Stein. A 22-year Chico resident, Dick has become a popular figure through his strong work ethic and commitment to the community. We caught up with Dick on a chilly, winter’s morning and chatted over a cup of coffee at a favorite local hangout, Bidwell Perk.
For those who don’t know you, please share a bit about yourself.
I’m an early riser and get started working before the sun comes up and typically don’t get home until after 6 pm. I have two careers – I’m a business owner and I teach at the University. I’m an extremely hard worker, very intense and extremely motivated. I’ve been married for 44 years to my wife, Mary, and have two children, 2 grandchildren, and a Great Dane.
What is your company?
HJ Promotional Products. It started in 1996 as a part-time hobby while I was working in radio and has grown into a full-fledged business. The name HJ is after my two children. If I had known then it was going to become my full-time business, I would have named it something else.
Tell us a bit about your background – how’d you end up here and why did you choose Chico?
My career started in radio while working at KFRC in San Francisco – the home of Dr. Don Rose. I started in sales and was soon promoted to management. Within 5 years, I was offered a job at K101 in San Francisco as their general sales manager. 4 years later I was promoted to station manager. I then moved my family to Tucson to manage two stations for 8 years. That was followed by 4 years in St. Louis. My wife hated St. Louis and wanted to move back to California. A friend offered me a job in Chico. I had never heard of Chico before but decided to take the job.
What was your first impression of Chico back then?
I thought it was in the middle of the desert until we got to Estates Drive where I saw the first signs of a city. I soon realized Chico was a very small town and I needed to change my big city attitude from fast-talking to more mellow. I slowed my pace. Within ten years I was running three stations. I chose to leave in 2006 when the stations were sold.
You mentioned you started your business in 1996. What was the impetus?
In 1996, I needed to order some promotional products for the station. I called a local distributor in town and was blown away at the exorbitant price they were charging for balloons. I asked advice from a friend in the industry and was told I should be paying 50% of the quoted price. So, I decided to start my own company. I ran the business on the side for 10 years, and when I left radio I went out of one door and into another. Two years later my son came on board full-time, and he still works with me today.
What do you do in your free time?
I play golf (not well), take naps, work 7 days a week, and drink wine. My favorite? Expensive. I do appreciate good red wine. I enjoy watching sports though I have a weird philosophy. I love sports because of the sport itself – not the athletes or teams. Neither have loyalty to one another. I grew up in NY and was a Yankee and Knicks fan. If I had to choose a team today, it would be the San Jose Sharks.
I’m involved in Chico Noon Rotary and sit on the Rotary Foundation Board. I’m also on the Enloe Foundation Board. I served as president of the Boys & Girls Club board, was President of Rotary and involved in the Chamber.
Let’s talk Chico. What’s your favorite thing?
The people. I have a nice circle of friends and have gotten to know a lot of people. Volunteering for non-profits and emceeing events has given me the chance to meet and know a whole new circle of friends.
What “gem” would you tell someone who was looking to move to Chico? Something only a local would know.
There are so many gems in this town that are of interest to people. I would encourage them to visit the Chico State campus. It’s beautiful and compressed – you can walk from end to end in 8 minutes. There’s so much to see, it’s unique and it’s what makes Chico State different.