The winning hand becomes a family legacy

Imagine Great Great Grandpa Pete Christensen’s surprise when he won a small telephone company in a game of Pinochle. It was 1912 and Pete was a young carpenter from Denmark with a little bit of luck and the moxie to work hard. Even in the beginning we were a family business with Pete’s daughter, Annie Christensen Haynes, working long hours at the small, wooden, Kellogg switchboard that could handle up to 10 calls. We began our family business by gaining the trust of our local customers by simply providing rural Eatonville customers reliable telephone service.

In 1919, Henry Christensen purchased the Mashell Telephone and Telegraph Company from his father Pete and assumed leadership. In 1929, Henry moved to Olympia and Pete’s younger son Dan took the reins. Dan passed away suddenly in 1954 and leadership of the company was given to Pete’s grandson, Arne Haynes.

Arne took the helm as president of Mashell Telecom, now known as Rainier Connect, with six employees, 300 customers, and annual revenues of $32,000. He left behind his job at the cedar shake mill with hopes of new opportunities for this local telephone company.

Arne led us for 36 years, and among his many accomplishments, the first was to retire the operator required for every call and install an electronic switch that allowed customers to dial each other. His next step was to eliminate multi-party (shared) lines. He was also credited with leading one of the first telephone companies in Washington to digital switching. When Arne retired in 1990, he had grown the company from 300 to more than 1,800 customers. In 1990, Arne was ready to pass the baton to his son.

Arne’s pending retirement created a difficult decision for his son, Skip Haynes, who was a partner in an accounting firm specializing in telecommunications. “We decided that either I had to come back or dad would sell the company,” remembers Skip. When faced with the options, Skip returned to the family business and became CEO.

Technology changes the game

The growth in the technology and communication industry required Skip’s focused attention on federal legislation that would make the telecommunications industry more competitive. Anticipating the passing of 1996 Telecommunications Act, which allowed communications companies to compete in any market against any company, Skip realized it was time to diversify. “I needed to make the transition from a monopoly organization to a competitive organization,” said Skip.

The advancements of the company and its leadership were nationally recognized in 2006 when the US Telecom Association (USTA) elected Skip as Chairman of the Board. Skip served as Chairman and led its membership of more than 1,000 small, mid-size, and large telecom providers (including Verizon, SBC and Bell South). During his tenure, Skip chaired committees that elected a new CEO, and developed a new business plan. He was also instrumental in a complete revamping of USTA which resulted in it now being recognized as the premier telecom association in the US.

In 2004, we opened a new office in the heart of the downtown Tacoma business district, and Skip’s son, Brian Haynes, joined us as Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

Laying down the meld, a community connection

Today, with Brian at the helm, Rainier Connect offers high-speed internet, cable television, and telephone services to more than 15,000 customers. And we did all of this while remaining true to the vision of the family-owned company Pete won so many years ago in a hand of pinochle.

“Community involvement, support and enrichment have been the cornerstone of Rainier Connect’s mission since it was founded back in 1910,” said Brian Haynes, CEO. “Our focus is in the community. That goes for business and residential customers alike, we are one big community. Whatever we can do to help our customers, we will be there.”

While he may not be an ace Pinochle player—in fact he doesn’t even know how to play—Brian is a man to bet on the odds. With a vision of a connected community, Brian is committed to connecting our customers, both business and residential, to the fastest, most reliable, cutting edge products and services.

A man devoted to staying local and being a steward of the community, you can regularly find Brian talking to neighbors and local business owners-always with an eye to finding ways to connect, create shared value and a sense of belonging.

To learn more about how we support the community, be sure to check out our community giving page.

August 2011 marked the passing of Arne Haynes. He passed peacefully with his family by his side and the knowledge that his grandson would lead Rainier Connect into the next generation of technological growth. True to his word, “Dad often said, ‘I was born in Eatonville and I will die in Eatonville.’ As usual, Arne did what he said he would,” recalls Skip Haynes.