An Interview with Teri and Marty Richards- Ridge & Valley Tours

An Interview with Teri and Marty Richards – Ridge & Valley Tours

When I was asked to do an interview with Marty and Teri Richards about their new business, I was excited to do it. I have known Marty and Teri and their family for many years. I have even had the great pleasure of working with some of them. I also was very excited to be taking one of their tours. I’m now anxiously awaiting next years tour schedule, as I can not wait to go on another tour or two, with them.

Where did the idea for Ridge & Valley Tours come from?
Ridge & Valley Tours is about hospitality. The idea really spawned from all of the tours that we have gone on, especially a tour we took of the Demilitarized Zone while visiting our daughter during her tour of duty in Korea. It was fairly blah, just the valley and the wild life. Yes, there was a historical aspect to it, but that was it. We got thinking that we could do something here showing agriculture and how it can be directly marketed. And just showing off some other things in the area.

Could you please tell me a little bit about your family?
We both came from farming backgrounds. We have three daughters, a son-in-law, and two grandsons.

Can each of you tell me about someone that you have met, through work, the business, or just in life, that stands out from all others that you have met, and why?
Teri- I would have to say Joy Richards because she taught me hospitality, to be present in today, not to hold grudges, and to really enjoy experiences. That the next thing is to experience something.
Marty- I would say Bill Brown. He hired me as a real estate agent when I didn’t even have a license and taught me about business.

What do you think will change about your business of the next 5-10yrs? Will anything change?
Adding more partners farms and sites, collaborators, co-marketers. To many businesses look at other similar businesses as competition. We need to work together more than compete. Probably the biggest change coming for us is learning to be more flexible and agile for each group that shows up. Also to have more offerings and at different times. We are looking to do the unusual and unique. We have no corporation to bog us down, we just have to figure out how to do new and different things between the two of us. Also we are working on self guided audio tours. A tour that you would download onto an MP3 player and then do a self guided, at your own pace tour. These would be mostly historical, but, there is so much to see here that has that historical aspect and that would make for a really easy and interesting self guided tour.

What do you think draws people to your business?
Right now it is mostly the curious locals. We are still struggling to get to other markets. We are trying to target a more urban market- Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis.

What do you think draws people to the Driftless area? Is it something that your business provides? Do you provide the people that come to your business with information of the different things available for them to do in the Driftless area?
People that are born and raised here don’t get it. You need to live elsewhere or travel and then you get it. It is the unique geography and topography that you find here. And another big one is that sometimes it is okay that cell service sucks. It is that at night you can see the stars. The people of the Driftless are different. We will stop our day to help you. We are a community that is very unique to here.

If you weren’t running your business, what would you be doing instead? What do you think that your life would be like?
We would have moved to Spokane. Two of our three daughters and our grandsons are there. We have even made friends and developed a support system there. But, everything here draws us back. Everywhere you go there are negative thinkers who think that Richland County has nothing. But, there are lots who are coming here, or who were born in the area or in the Driftless area, that are returning to life here. We decided that we could make a bigger impact in business creation with the Chamber and with tourism by staying here. People here are about hospitality, and that is what our business is about … hospitality. In the end for us a positive tour experience is one that has been entertaining and fun for the group that was there that day.

What might our readers be surprised to learn about the two of you?
Marty- That I was on the Today Show and the Jimmy Kimmel show in the same year. Also, we have had very diverse careers over our lives. We have traveled extensively, we’ve been to most of the continents, and that is somewhat unique to Richland County.
Teri- We are on a journey to tell our local story. Marty really likes people and sees different people as a challenge. We each handle things and people differently.

Is there something that you are curious about in life? And if so, what is it?
Marty- The older I have gotten the less I know about life. I don’t judge anymore. I have learned to be more understanding of different lifestyles.
Teri- Hospitality. I want to see people have a nice time and emulate what my in-laws have shown me in hospitality over the years. I want to get past everything must be perfect and learn to really just enjoy the moment.

Is there a shill that either of you would like to learn yet in your life?
Teri- I want to do more instruction.
Marty- I really want to learn to play the piano.

How did you find your partners for the tours?
We had a few in mind. We knew the Hatfield’s and some of their stories. And after that, they just started to fall into place. We would be talking to someone about what we wanted to do and they would say go and talk to so and so. And sometimes that would give us a partner and sometimes it sent us on to another person to talk to. Some of them actually contacted us after they heard what we were trying to do. The main thing that we were looking for was the story. The story of how they got to where they were. Of what they wanted to continue to do in the future with their farm or business.

If someone were to ask you, “What is there to do or where is there to go in the Driftless?”, what would you tell them?
What is your interest? We have sports, education, ecology and history. It is also a growing area for food and beverages. We are becoming a destination. People come from urban centers and see what rural life is. We have 51% woods and that is rare.

Ridge and Valley Tours