Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013 - 26

2013 Top Ops Awards
INDEPENDENT COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
Chesnee Communications
Chesnee Communications irst landed on our radar when
we heard about its Community Page, a Website where folks
can ind out about what's going on in the former mill town
of Chesnee, SC, population 900. There are listings of school
events, including sports, links to activities, classiied ads,
weather, Chesnee's channel lineup and pictures of town events,
among other things. Yet when we dug a little deeper, we found
that the site is just one of many ways familyowned
Chesnee serves its community.
Spend time in Chesnee's lobby-its ofice
is smack in the middle of Main Street, you
can't miss it-and you'll see another way
customers are connected. ACA VP/COO
Rob Shema did. " I was there for an hour, " he
says. " About 50 people came in. Some paid
their bill, others came to chat. The woman
behind the desk knew every person's name.
It was great, " he says.
Wait-there's a place in America where
customers pay their bill in person? " That's
how it's done in small-town America, " Chesnee Cable TV
Manager Paige Venczel says with pride. It's a town only 3
blocks long and there's no hotel. " We're so small we don't
even have a bar in town, " she says.
An engaging lady who likes to laugh, Venczel is a lifer;
she's been in the family business since she was a schoolgirl.
Her maternal grandparents founded the company 81 years
ago as an independent telephone provider. She and her
parents are among its 26 employees. Cable TV was added
in 1996. That's when Venczel's mother asked her to run the
cable business. " My mother said she knew nothing about
cable, so I begged people for information and here we are 17
years later, still learning. "
But let's get back to bill paying. " Our lobby on
the irst of the month is like a meet and greet, "
Venczel says with glee. " People come in every
month... they pay their bill and stand and
talk... it's neat, they become our friends. Look,
half the people [who come in] you go to church
with so you gotta talk about Sunday sermon
or who fell asleep during it. " And when people
know they will be late with their payment?
" They'll come up to me at the grocery store and tell me. " For
the record, Chesnee offers online bill paying.
Then there is the connection to the community through doing
good. " I could spend all day telling you about things we do in
this town, " Venczel says. Beyond sponsoring " anything that
goes on in the schools, " she's especially proud of The Santa
House, where kids can come before Christmas and get their
picture taken with Santa. " People told us we could never offer
this for free, but we've never taken a penny. " Then there's
the pre-K Head Start School that Chesnee Communications
adopted. " We do something for these kids every month. " At
Christmas, " it's very sad because our kids at the school need
socks and underwear. So we bought for 56 kids socks and
underwear and a toy, " she tells us. And don't forget the summer
motorcycle festival...
* Chesnee Communications serves 2,500 cable subs and
3,500 phone subs. Chesnee Cable provides digital cable
and HD. By the fall it will offer TV Everywhere and a much
larger selection of HD channels.
* When the town's two textile mills
closed in the 1980s, Chesnee became
a bedroom community to people commuting
to the Greenville-Spartanburg
area of South Carolina. One of
the main employers in the area
is a BMW plant.
26
cablefaxmag.com
While Chesnee is a small town, there's nothing minimal
about Chesnee Communications' community efforts. For its
local channel, " we have a man who takes a video camera
with him everywhere he goes around town... you name
it, we tape it, " Venczel says, " from the Christmas parade
to every high school football game, basketball game and
baseball game. " This past season the camera even left
town, following the high school baseball team as it became
the 2-A State Champion. When the team arrived in Chesnee
at 2am, trophy in hand, the camera was there. " It had nothing
to do with the fact that my son is on the team, " Venczel
laughs. Seriously, though, it's these local connections that
keep Chesnee subscribers loyal.
- Seth Arenstein
July 2013
CableFAX: The Magazine
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Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013

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