HARDWARE STORES

At Handy, a new look for 2014

BY HBSDEALER Staff

After a volatile 2013, Handy Hardware is entering the new year with new ownership, new structure and a new emphasis on customer profits.

The Houston-based hardware distributor launched an initiative called “Profit Plus, the New face of Handy,” which encompasses business improvements and dealer programs.

“The Handy team and I want to thank our customers who stood buy us in 2013, and want them to know Handy’s ability to service our dealers has never been stronger,” said Doug Miller, CEO.

Handy Hardware emerged from a Chapter 11 filing in August 2013 after being purchased by Hardware Holdings, part of the Littlejohn & Company group. The company’s structure changed from a member-owned co-op to an independent wholesaler and distributor. As a result of the bankruptcy proceedings, retailers who were members of the co-op lost their equity.

The changes at Handy include personnel. Hardware Holdings’ new president and CEO is Donald Devine, the former CEO of American Standard Brands. Hardware Holdings is also the parent company of Howard Berger Co. 

“We are operating Handy Hardware and HBC as independent companies focused on serving their customers in their respective markets,” Devine said. “The common ownership structure should enhance Handy Hardware’s ability to provide their dealers with profit enhancing sourced products from HBC’s extensive catalogue of hardware and building products, which are available to dealers and retailers across the country.”

Another change is in merchandising. The company hired Craig Cowart as EVP of merchandising and marketing.  Cowart was most recently the general manager of Your Other Warehouse, the wholesale division of The Home Depot based in Atlanta. He will spearhead Handy’s drive to improve our merchandising assortment, vendor relations, and dealer programs in support of the company’s “Profits Plus” initiative.

Cowart also served as president of Marvin’s, the Alabama-based home center chain.

Mickey Schulte, formerly VP merchandising, has moved to the newly created role of senior VP sales and key accounts, where he will oversee all of the company’s sales efforts. Ken Harvey, VP dealer services, will report to Schulte.

The changes will be addressed and explained at the distributors upcoming market in Houston. Handy said it expects nearly 500 booths of products from hundreds of suppliers at their spring market, which opens Feb. 13.

Said CEO Doug Miller: “We want as many of our dealers and vendors as possible to hear our vision of Handy Hardware, and we want them to share our excitement about Handy’s growth prospects with our loyal dealer base.”

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Wisconsin hardware store closes after 55 years

BY HBSDEALER Staff

In Jefferson, Wis., a local mainstay is shutting its doors after 55 years. Though it wasn’t suffering any extreme hardships, Punzel Hardware has announced its plans to close early this year after owner Jeff Punzel got a more lucrative job offer that will free up time for him to spend with his family, the Wisconsin Daily Union reported.

According to the news source, the store was surviving relatively well, but profit margins were tight for the independent.

The store has been in the family since 1958, when Punzel’s father, Lyle, purchased it. It opened in 1959 as a Gambles hardware store and continued on as an independent when Gambles sold out in 1980. It would later enter a franchise agreement with Trustworthy Hardware, and in 2007, Jeff and his wife, Toni, closed the original store and took over the True Value store in his hometown, opening it up as Punzel Ace Hardware. It went independent again early in 2013 as Punzel Hardware & Rental.

“Though the name changed many times, the family spirit and dedication to serving the Jefferson community never changed,” Jeff Punzel told the news source. “We have seen many faces come and go as our customer base has changed over the years, and we appreciate the loyalty and dedication our customers have shown us.”

“We went fully independent at the beginning of this year, and I wish we had done that years ago,” Toni Punzel added. “There is ample opportunity in this market for an independent hardware store, but it isn’t going to be this one.”

The store will remain open for the time being, with liquidation-level discounts on its stock and rental items. Inventory is expected to sell out in January or February.

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At Blish-Mize, a fifth-generation CEO

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Atchison, Kan.-based hardware distributor Blish-Mize Co. announced that Jonathan D. Mize has been appointed CEO, succeeding his father, John H. Mize. 

For the past few years, the younger Mize has served as president and COO and previously served in other officer capacities. He will be the fifth generation of the Mize family to hold the title of CEO. He also serves as president & COO of Hardware House, a subsidiary of Blish-Mize Co.

“Under my father’s leadership as CEO for the past 30 plus years, he has moved our company forward and kept it growing and profitable, and I look forward to more progress,” said Jonathan Mize. "As we enter our 143rd year in business, we have a great team, and we are in a great position to continue to help our customers be successful in hardware retailing for many more years to come.”

John H. Mize will become executive chairman of Blish-Mize Co. and will remain chairman of the company’s board of directors. 

“As we look to the future, I can honestly say that I am very confident that Blish-Mize will continue to thrive,” said John Mize. “During his more than two decades of service, Jonathan has been involved in the promoting and hiring of a strong management team to help him run the company in the future.  Jonathan knows the business, lives our core values, and has the respect and admiration of the company’s officers, directors, employees, suppliers, and valued customers.  In short, he has earned the right to lead Blish-Mize as CEO. His movement up the leadership ladder of our company comes from good old-fashioned hard work, teamwork, enthusiasm and his drive for results.  As his supervisor, mentor and father, I could not be happier for him or more pleased for our company.”

Blish-Mize customers include building materials dealers, lumberyards, home centers, hardware stores and paint stores. They are also a fulfillment center for many online retailers. They provide more than 50,000 SKUs and represent more than 1,000 manufacturers. The company prides itself on a customer-centric business philosophy.

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