As the coronavirus lockdown went into effect, local radio station owner JD Hoss took action, interviewing officials and providing daily COVID-19 updates. He was also very vocal about supporting the local community during these trying times, saying, “Exhaust every local resource, before going online.”
Sounds like a mantra for Think Local, so we spoke with JD Hoss at his station to find out more.
How long have you been in the Tahoe/Truckee community?
I’ve been in the Tahoe/Truckee community 16 going on 17 years, coming up here on July 10. Born and raised in Reno. This is the place we came. We decided we didn’t want to live in concrete-ville after we got married, and if we were to stake a life, we were going to stake our life right here in Truckee.
How long have you owned KTKE 101.5?
I’ve been here 16 of those years. Fired twice, quit once. The actual ownership of it, going on 12 years I’ve owned this radio station. I bought it during the recession of ‘08.
What drove you to actively promote shopping, and thinking, local?
Well, because number one, I own two businesses. I own this radio station and I own a flooring business in town as well. I understand what it means to spend local dollars and how local dollars stay in our community. And at that time, I was watching what was going on and I could see who were going to be the recipients, the most wealthiest people in the world were doubling, tripling, making larger profits than we’ve ever seen ever. None of that was coming back to this community.
And I could tell right from the beginning watching businesses crumble and watching people’s life work just dissipate. And as I saw that, you could see the emotion of the people, which is the fabric of the community, and the people were just dying right on the vine.
I said, “Well, how do we keep everybody here? How do we make sure that when this thing is over, that all these businesses are still here,” because that’s what makes community.
The businesses that support the baseball teams, the football teams, the soccer teams, the local events, the nonprofits. If they die, community’s gone, fabric’s gone.
Every time that somebody went online and they shopped at Amazon, they were putting one more nail in the coffin to those businesses here in Truckee. Because not one penny of that money comes back to this community. It all goes to Jeff Bezos. I think they made $43 more billion, in one month. Are you kidding me? I mean that’s half of the stimulus package for the whole entire country.
We coulda done it better. Why did they close small businesses? They should have never closed small businesses, they should have closed big business. There [were] more people in big businesses, transmitting the virus, than you could have ever done in small businesses.
So when it says about spending local, it means you must exhaust every avenue, every resource possible, in your community, before you click that button. Because once you click that button, that money is gone forever.
These think local/spend local reminders, what effect did they have on your listeners?
I really hope that people understand what community is about and why we live here, the reason we choose to live here. And the UPS trucks, FedEx trucks, they didn’t stop. They didn’t stop. I got responses received back from people, “Well I can’t buy that here.” (See sidebar.)
There’s needs and wants in life. I’ve been doing that since the ‘80s. Needs and wants. That’s how I got to where I am today. “Do I really need that? Or do I want that?”
Because right now what you need is fresh air, you need water, you need space and you need family. You need time and you need love and you need community. And you must come together as one.
How has your business fared?
So, I came into the team. They looked at me. I looked at them. We lost 80% of our business. We were in the fun business. And we had lost everything. We had nothing. We had about 20% coming in. And that wasn’t enough to pay the rent, to pay everything.
I went to my retirement fund and I looked at how much I had, how much I had saved. And as much as I don’t like corporate businesses, I like the model of Starbucks. Because Starbucks said, hey, here’s the deal. PPP’s coming and you hold everybody. You do not send anybody to the unemployment line. You hold them and it’ll be all okay.
So I looked at how much money I had and said, “Okay, that’s what I’m going to do.”
I looked at the team, I said, we are a nonprofit. We’re not a registered nonprofit, but we are going to act like one, we’re going to operate like a nonprofit, ‘til we’re profitable again.
So we gave away all the advertising. If you needed help, we gave it to you. If there was a fundraiser, we gave it to them … if somebody needed help, they were on the radio. If we needed more news and information, I put you on the radio.
This license for this radio station was so hard to come by. It was such a gift, to have an opportunity to get this license and buy it from corporate hands, in America today. Then is it not my core responsibility to give this thing back, and in tenfold, for what it’s given to me? That’s what it’s about for me.
Why can’t you get here?
You might subscribe to the idea of shopping local, but there is that one thing you just can’t get here. We want to know what that is, and the business community certainly wants to know. Tell us what you can’t find in Tahoe/Truckee, firstname.lastname@example.org.
JD’s response: Despite tremendous, tremendous customer service from Mountain Hardware, he had to go to Home Depot for an attic fan.