He was referring to a piece his daughter had written as a part of
her college admittance requirement.
In the piece, she summed up what Matson stands for in life as a
father and a local businessman, when she said, "He always thinks of
others before himself."
Matson, who is the vice president and manager of Action Rentals
and Sales on Lincoln's downtown square, will tell you that thinking
of others first is something that he learned by example and is a
part of what has made him a successful businessman in Lincoln for
the past 25 years.
There are many people who help to shape a life, from parents and
friends to pastors and co-workers, but for Matson the ones who stand
out the most are those who assisted him through the education
"My teachers believed in me and gave me opportunities to grow,"
Matson recalls that even at a very young age in school, he had
teachers who supported him and gave countless hours of their time to
helping him become a successful student.
He noted that as a youngster he had difficulty with reading
comprehension and that it was his teacher Catherine Abbott who
worked with him for hours on end until he finally overcame that
In high school, he had already developed an interest in retail
business, and he noted that his teachers were very supportive and
helpful. He named among others Larry Nelson and Wanda Lee Rohlfs,
who took an interest in him and helped him achieve his goals.
During those early years he also developed much of his outgoing
personality by being involved in clubs and organizations as well as
He was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout, played on the Lion's Club
baseball team, sang in his church choir as well as at school,
belonged to the art club, served as president of the high school
business club for two consecutive years, and was a member of the
Lincoln Aires Chorus.
In high school he participated in the diversified occupation
program, working first for Key Pharmacy, then for the Stetson
He credits Connie McCullough, who was then the manager of the
Stetson Outlet, as being a person who was very influential in his
"She took me under her wing," he said, "and really taught me how
to deal with people."
After high school, Matson worked for a while for PPG Industries
in Lincoln and Eaton, which was then Cutler-Hammer, and then went to
work in retail for Decker Shoes, working in both the Lincoln and
It was while he was at Decker's that he happened into a meeting
with Henry Baird and Chuck Terry, the owners of a new business in
town, Whippoorwill Rentals, and thus he began his career with that
Matson recalls the day: "I was working at Decker Shoes, and I got
a call from Father McCarthy. He said, 'There is a new kind of
business in town, and I really think you should go check it out.'"
By that time, Matson was married to wife, Julie, and he said he
didn't even tell her that he was going to go visit with Baird and
Terry. He just took off during his lunch hour at Decker's and went
to see them. After nearly two hours with the men, he walked away as
the manager of their new business.
The Whippoorwill store offered rent-to-own on furnishings and
appliances and also a VCR and video rental program. It began with
only Matson and one other person, but as they grew, more staff was
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Early on, the business outgrew the Woodlawn location and moved into
the downtown vicinity to a location on Broadway Street. There, they
underwent a name change.
Going from Whippoorwill to Action, Matson said, had a lot to do
with the phone book.
"Whippoorwill was at the back of the book, and I wanted a name
that would put us up front," he explained. "We did a search for
business names and found that there were no 'Action' businesses, so
we took that name."
Matson explained that in the early years of the business, a large
majority of his customer base were people who were on public aid. As
such, they had needs, but very limited income, and sometimes very
little understanding of their own finances.
When they came to Action, they were looking for multiple items
that they needed. He said the first priority was to determine what
they really did need versus what they wanted and then to help them
understand what they could afford.
"You take on a responsibility when you have a business like
this," Matson said. "You have to be more 'person-to-person.' There
are ups and downs in everybody's lives, and you have to work with
them on their level and on their basis."
In addition to just furnishing a home, there were times when the
real needs of his client extended beyond what his business actually
offered, but that didn't mean Action Rentals and Sales couldn't
Matson said that when it was warranted he's even gone so far as
to buy cars for customers so he could set them up on the Action pay
plans and help them out.
"At that time, there were a lot of rent-to-own businesses, but
they were owned by larger corporations who wrote the rules," Matson
explained. "But we weren't. I had the power to make the decisions
and to work with people according to their needs, and that is what I
In the end Matson said that he gained the trust of those
customers as an honest person who was interested in helping them to
have a better life. That trust is part of what has kept those same
customers coming back through the years, and now even into the
second generation, their children also choose to do business with
Today, the business is still owned by Henry Baird, who is a
successful business owner in the Springfield area. Matson has moved
up from being just the manager of the company to its vice president
and said that he and Baird have always had a good working
relationship as well as a friendship.
Baird has given Matson a free hand in how he runs the business
and has supported all of his efforts to grow the business in the
For Matson, Action Rentals and Sales has been a perfect fit for
the last 25 years partially because it is a business where Matson
feels that not only can he support his family, but he can support
his community and help others along the way.
In the second installment of this Business Spotlight, Matson will
talk about being a part of the community and supporting his fellow
businessmen and women in their efforts to make Lincoln a great place
to live and shop.
[By NILA SMITH]