HARDWARE STORES

Long-Lewis Hardware celebrates 125th anniversary

BY Brae Canlen

Long-Lewis Hardware, a distributor based in Birmingham, Ala., is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. A division of Long-Lewis Inc., Long-Lewis Hardware serves hardware stores, home centers, agricultural retailers, industrial/commercial dealers and lumberyards in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee. The other division is a Ford automobile dealership, one of the oldest in the nation.

The company got its start in 1887 as Bessemer Cornice Works, making metal cornices and other architectural decorations that are still visible on older buildings in Alabama today. 

As founder William Long became more successful, he started Long-Hardware and later bought out his competitor, Lewis Hardware. 

Long-Lewis Hardware is still a family business, now headed by CEO Vaughn Burrell and his two sons-in-law, VP and general manager Doug Stanford and operations manager Steve Benson. Other management includes Dwight Brown, general sales manager; Michael Brady, purchasing director (who serves on the PRO Hardware merchandise committee); and Jane Geggus, PRO program director. Long-Lewis joined the PRO Group in 1989. 

Long-Lewis has dramatically improved its customer service and lowered operating costs through technology, which it uses as leverage to improve performance in many areas of its operation, from sales to delivery. According to Stanford, the general manager, "Technology is allowing us to handle inventory with minimum effort and it has helped reduce paper usage dramatically, while enhancing the accuracy of inventory in warehousing and shipments, providing better service to our dealers."

Stanford added that some categories, such as industrial and commercial, are growing, so the company is expanding in those areas and hiring more sales reps, especially in the commercial side of the business. "We are a company with a rich history. We like to think big, start small and act fast. As you see opportunities you want to think big by growing quantities or categories. Start small by hiring one or two sales people and do it pretty quickly."

One of Long-Lewis’ key strengths is providing customer service in rural areas that dealers normally expect in urban areas only. "As a result we are very popular with a lot of different categories of dealers, such as agricultural categories and building contractors," Stanford said. "We find a way to provide customer service to retailers of all sizes. Part of that service is providing the PRO program that offers advertising and recognition."

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Prison policy locks out the local hardware store

BY HBSDealer Staff

An article in Delmarvanow.com reports that a procurement policy for Eastern Correctional Institution in Maryland is cutting out the local hardware store.

In an blow to the buy-local movement, an Ace dealer in Princess Anne, Md., was told that Eastern Correctional Institution is handcuffed into buying from national supplier W.W. Grainger.

The article quotes Bill Harris, the owner of two Ace stores that formerly received business orders from the Maryland prison: “They should be supporting the local economy — period.”

Prison officials are looking to get a waiver on the requirement so that the prison could shop locally for hardware and other building materials, according to the article.

When contacted by Home Channel News, the state’s Department of General Services, which manages procurement for the prison, said the policy of buying from Grainger is neither unusual, nor new. The rule has been inplace since at least 2007, according to spokeswoman Susan Woods. "This is basically to protect taxpayer interests and streamline the quality service across the board," she said. 

The law has a provision whereby the prison can purchase locally from a non-Grainger supplier for items under $1,000, as long as the total of off-contract purchases for the year is under $5,000.

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Another cash mob hits hardware store

BY HBSDealer Staff

An Ohio hardware store was the destination of a cash mob on June 20 when nearly 60 people descended on Solon Valley Hardware, according to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

It was the first event of the “Shop Solon First” campaign organized by the local Chamber of Commerce. Open since 1957, Solon Valley has been a chamber member since 1974.

Each participant was asked to show up at the same time and bring $20 to spend. A total of 59 transactions were conducted in one hour, according to the article. Individual sales averaged $28 to $29 a person.

Owners Jon and Joan Miller reported a cash infusion in the $1,700 range over the course of the hour.

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