Seven Secrets of the Hardware Store All-Stars
Guadalupe Lumber in San Antonio has a reputation for its eclectic product mix. “Jackets, boots and all sorts of stuff,” said Kyle Grothues, fourth-generation general manager of the three-store hardware home center retailer. “We ended up with a lot of statues of the Virgin Mary one year.”
And the results? “We sold all of them.”
The ability to seize merchandise opportunities is one of the common themes among the crop of 2013 Hardware Store All-Stars.
HCN editors identified seven such “secrets” that are reflected by the business of the 2013 All-Star Hardware Stores.
1. In it for the customers: The most consistent trait of a stand-out store is almost always customer service. All-Star staff are often cited for being more knowledgeable than the big boxes (and occasionally carrying historical parts for old homes in the community, like Fairfax Hardware in Delaware). Halls Ace Hardware & Lumber in Florida even gives a welcome package to first-time customers.
2. Community cornerstone: The hardware store of the good old days was an integral community fixture. Luckily, that hasn’t changed all that much. Many All-Stars are beloved neighborhood hubs that participate in local charity events and causes. Pete’s Ace Hardware in California offers dog training for the disabled, specialty services and “Rent a Husband” on-site contracting, for example.
3. Serving the pro: If a store can earn the reputation of “where the pros go,” that trickles down to a DIY audience. In Texas, Guadalupe Lumber is wowing pros with a new drive-through lumberyard. Hinton (Okla.) Hardware’s DeWayne Tripp speaks the language. He was a plumbing/electrical/ HVAC contractor when he bought Hinton Hardware in 1998.
4. Marketing basics: Companies like Budget Build Home Center in Louisiana have embraced the gamut of social media options. (The store broadcasts new inventory on Twitter.) All-Stars are adroit on Facebook, but they also score points face to face. Bomberger’s in Pennsylvania has shown special skills in parade floats and grill giveaways.
5. Niche-building instinct: A natural home for odds and ends, the best hardware store manages to serve the general needs of customers while doing one thing really well — whether it be catering to the farm and ranch community; doubling as a tourist hotspot; or serving the hungry health food market, like Sol Foods, Hardware & Camping in Utah.
6. All in the family: Stores passed down from generation to generation operate as if they have a historical mission to succeed. Because they do. At Marcus Lumber Co. in Iowa, four fourth-generation family members are in the business. At 125-year-old Kellogg & Lawrence in New York, 40-year employee Jeff Kellogg is the great grandson of founder Henry Kellogg.
7. Metamorphosis: It’s not easy to renovate a store. But All-Stars recognize that what worked in the past might not work in the future — a theory that applies especially to store design. In Portland, Ore., Parkrose Hardware completed an extensive remodel in 2012. “The results have been quite impressive,” said COO Michael Nelson, “both aesthetically, and to our bottom line.”
For more All-Star coverage, visit Homechannelnews.com
HCN’s 2013 Hardware Store ALL-STARS
Bart and Diana Tyler, proprieters of Kelloggs & Lawrence in Katonah, N.Y., and DeWayne Tripp, owner of Hinton (Okla.) Hardware joined an elite crowd in 2013: HCN Hardware Store All-Stars. Their stores made the list, along with 48 other worthy retailers, one from each state.
Now in its third year, the HCN All-Star project recognizes hardware stores that are outstanding in their field. They don’t have to be the biggest, or even the most profitable. But they must display an All-Star sense for customer service and business acumen.
To those who nominated stores, the editors thank you. To those who made the list, congratulations. And to those who believe they deserve to be recognized as All-Stars, tell us about it — and we’ll see you next year.
✭ Alabama: Dixie Pro Hardware, Montgomery, Ala.
✭ Alaska: Anchorage True Value Hardware, Anchorage
✭ Arizona: Havasu Do it Best Hardware, Lake Havasu City
✭ Arkansas: Hilltop Ace Hardware, Little Rock
✭ California: Pete’s Ace Hardware, Castro Valley
✭ Colorado: Joseph’s Do it Best Hardware, Fort Collins
✭ Connecticut: Hemlock Hardware, Fairfield
✭ Delaware: Fairfax Hardware, Wilmington
✭ Florida: Halls Ace Hardware & Lumber, Milton
✭ Georgia: Intown Ace Hardware, Decatur
✭ Hawaii: Lahaina Ace Hardware, Lahaina
✭ Idaho: D&B Supply, multiple locations
✭ Idaho: Selkirk Ace Hardware, Oldtown
✭ Illinois: Tonnies Hardware and Rental, Albers
✭ Iowa: Marcus Lumber Company, Marcus
✭ Kansas: Newton’s True Value Hardware, Independence
✭ Kentucky: Congleton Brothers Pro Home Center, Beattyville
✭ Louisiana: Budget Build Home Center True Value, Ferriday
✭ Maine: Ames True Value Hardware & Supply, Wiscasset
✭ Maryland: Dunkirk Do it Best Hardware & Home Center, Dunkirk
✭ Massachusetts: Baskin’s True Value, South Yarmouth
✭ Michigan: ACO Hardware, multiple locations
✭ Minnesota: Frattalones Ace Hardware, Minneapolis
✭ Mississippi: Complete Home Center, Hernando
✭ Missouri: Oak Hill Hardware & Paint Company, St. Louis
✭ Montana: Montana Ace-Trempers, Missoula
✭ Nebraska: C&L Hardware, Ashland
✭ Nevada: Home Hardware and Variety, Boulder City
✭ New Hampshire: Goffstown Ace Hardware, Goffstown
✭ New Jersey: McGrath’s Paint and Hardware, multiple locations
✭ New Mexico: Harts Home Center, Moriarty
✭ New York: Kelloggs & Lawrence Do it Best, Katonah
✭ North Carolina: Zoller Hardware, Cashiers
✭ North Dakota: Stockmen’s Supply, West Fargo
✭ Ohio: Applegate Pro Hardware, Georgetown
✭ Oklahoma: Hinton True Value Hardware, Hinton
✭ Oregon: Parkrose Hardware, Portland
✭ Pennsylvania: Bomberger’s Store, Lititz
✭ Rhode Island: Wyoming Do it Best Hardware, Wyoming
✭ South Carolina: Tri-County Ace, Seneca
✭ South Dakota: Runnings, multiple locations
✭ Tennessee: Ace Hardware of Chattanooga
✭ Texas: Guadalupe Lumber Co., San Antonio
✭ Utah: Sol Foods, Hardware and Camping, Springdale
✭ Vermont: J&H Hardware Do it Best, Bellows Falls
✭ Virginia: Randy’s Do it Best Hardware (multiple locations)
✭ Washington: Island Do it Best Home Center and Lumber, Vashon
✭ West Virginia: Boltz Hardware, Garden Center & General Store, Martinsburg
✭ Wisconsin: Watson Ace Hardware, Lake Mills
✭ Wyoming: Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply, multiple locations
Before and after: Delbert Brown’s Ace
Like many hardware stores that come to embrace change, Delbert Brown’s Ace Hardware in Stanton, Ky., needed room to grow. Its 8,000-sq.-ft. layout simply wasn’t cutting it, especially when it had an extra 2,100 sq. ft. of adjoining property essentially serving as wasted storage space.
“It was no use at all,” said owner Delbert Brown.
Before: Given that he already owned the space, the decision to expand was a virtual no-brainer.
Construction started in November 2012 and ended in January, with extensive updates that involved taking down the walls, redoing the lighting and the floors, and changing the entrance to make it more central to the overall layout. A new relationship with Ace brought in a larger paint format, Craftsman tool line and other expansions.
“We ended up resetting the entire store,” said Brown, who cited a 20% larger paint and tools department, a 15% larger plumbing aisle and a 10% increase in his electrical products selection, he said.
After: The saying applies: “The world fills whatever size cup you arrive with.” A larger store meant larger profits, with an overall increase of 15% in year-over-year sales.
“This has been one of the most positive moves [I’ve ever made],” said Brown. “People are overwhelmed by the new product lines — they can get everything they need here. They don’t need to go to Home Depot or Lowe’s.”