HARDWARE STORES

Former dealer opens another store — 20 years later

BY Ken Clark

Jim Cohen has been wanting to run a hardware store ever since he sold Central Hardware, a Brighton, Mo.-based chain of home improvement stores, in 1989. Founded by his great-grandfather in 1903, the company grew to about 38 stores in six states at its peak, according to an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

The chain was sold to a partnership that included the Belgian retailer GIB and an executive from Handy Andy Home Improvement Centers. Cohen stayed on board until 1992.

The company eventually declared bankruptcy and ended up closing in the mid-1990s.

Cohen spent the next two decades working as a consultant and looking for an opportunity to open another hardware store. Several deals fizzled out. But then the 65-year-old great-grandfather found what he was looking for at aSears Hardware location, which he opened last month in Overland, Mo. The urban setting is somewhat of a departure for the Sears small-town 6,500-sq.-ft. format.

Cohen think he can make it work using tried-and-true hardware retailing principles: greeting customers at the door. Six of the original Central Hardware employees or associates have already been hired.

Obviously, there are a number of locations where a concept like this can work,” Jim told the Post-Dispatch. “There’s a ton of real estate out there that I’ve looked at. After one year of setting down a firm foundation, then we’ll see where it goes.”

To read the entire interview with Cohen, click here.

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At House-Hasson, a more powerful Web tool

BY Ken Clark

Called etoolbox.net, the new dealer-exclusive website enables orders through the Internet and the latest product information for the 105-year-old distributor.

House-Hasson Hardware has inaugurated a new dealer-exclusive website, etoolbox.net, which enables dealers to order via the Internet and get up-to-the-second information on House-Hasson’s more than 50,000 products. 

Accessed by a user name and password, etoolbox.net was created in response to customer requests, said Don Hasson, president of House-Hasson.

“We want our dealers to always have premier programs,” Hasson said. “We talked to them about what they wanted, needed and would like, and created etoolbox.net to give them more tools, features and benefits.

“One of our most significant new tools is the product index,” Hasson said. “We’ve taken all our fine-line classes and indexed them on etoolbox.net. Using keywords, a dealer looking for a specific item can find it quickly and not have to search through large groupings.

The dealer information on the website is always current, and dealer ordering is simplified because information collected on their hand-held CipherLab units is transmitted directly to the etoolbox.net website using the dealer’s Internet connection, Hasson added.

Ron Yatteau, House-Hasson’s electronic dealer services director, explained how etoolbox.net and CipherLab work together. “Using his CipherLab hand-held device, a dealer scans bin tags, puts the CipherLab into a cradle and accesses etoolbox.net,” Yatteau said. “The information in the CipherLab appears as an order on the dealer’s House-Hasson customer site. The information is customized to and for the dealer and includes the store’s sales history and pricing.”

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Florida hardware store bans the penny

BY Brae Canlen

An 84-year-old hardware store in Coconut Grove, Fla., has decided to join the modern movement to do away with pennies in cash transactions, according to an article in the Miami Herald.

Shell Lumber now has a large sign at the front door with an image of a penny with a red slash through it. It reads, “No more pennies!” The sign also explains that the store will round up cash sales in the customer’s favor, which maxes out at four cents. 

The store owner, who still gives out free popcorn and snow cones in the summer, said he was spending too much staff time counting roughly 1,200 pennies needed each day for the stores’ 10 registers. Credit card customers will pay the full amount because no pennies have to change hands.

Shell Lumber is following in the footsteps of military commissaries, which stopped shipping pennies overseas in the 1980s and randomly round up purchases on U.S. bases. Canada has announced a plan to eliminate its own one-cent piece as a cost-saving measure. 

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