Throwback Thursday: Heady days at Stambaugh-Thompson

Back in 1981, an Ohio hardware and building supply dealer overhauled its fleet of 17 stores.

Don Senne in 1981, with a Stambaugh-Thompson store in the background.

Page three of the Sept. 14, 1981 issue of National Home Center News, the forerunner of HBSDealer, proclaimed: “Stambaugh-Thompson to open 1st of 9 remodels.”  

According to Don Senne, who was smiling in the photograph, the reason for the upgrade was to accommodate a new chain emphasis in four major product categories: LBM, floor and wall coverings, millwork, and kitchen and bath.

Youngstown, Ohio-based Stambaugh-Thompson grew to a peak of 17 stores. Today it no longer exists. But it was relatively easy to track down Senne, who is the president of Youngstown-based Brass Accents, purveyors of decorative brass hardware.

“Stambaugh-Thompson is still in a lot of hearts around here,” Senne told HBSDealer. “I miss those stores. We ran good hardware stores in a day when everybody was completely enamored with the contractor business.”

One of the retailer’s defining features was that it operated its own distribution system.

“We said early on that if we’re going to be successful in this business, we have to run our warehouse as efficiently as the big box warehouse,” Senne said. “We invested in all the latest conveyer systems and all the latest in scanners and POS systems when it was all relatively new.”

What happened? According to Senne, the family owned business was in good hands under Phil Thompson. But things went south after Thompson sold the retailer to some investors with experience at Kmart.

Senne still believes there’s an opportunity for businesses – like the old Westlake hardware, and like the old Stambaugh-Thompson, to compete in home improvement with their own distribution business. “If I had that company today exactly as it was then, it would be successful today.” he said. 

The 1981 article also reported this Interesting fact about Senne: he joined the retailer after he answered a want-ad to sell paint at a local store. Eight years later, he was general merchandise manager.

“Those were fun days,” Senne said. 

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