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Smith Phillips launches green building program

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Smith Phillips Building Supply, a two-unit pro dealer based in Winston-Salem, N.C., has launched a new green building program called “Beyond Green.” The company will use a dedicated Web site — http://www.smithphillips.net/Green.html — and monthly newsletter to promote its green offerings and expertise to its customers. Its product line is also being expanded to include more green products, according to senior vp-sales Rob Powell. Smith Phillips already sells composite decking, metal roofing and low-VOC adhesives and caulking.

“We don’t have the [FSC] chain of custody certification, but we’re bringing in locally grown Southern Yellow Pine framing lumber,” Powell told Home Channel News. “It travels less than 60 miles to get here.”

Workers at both the Winston-Salem and Statesville lumberyards have been issued new recycling boxes made on site from waste materials, Powell said. Other “green” practices include packaging floor systems cut to the nearest foot and training employees how to steer customers toward more eco-friendly product choices.

North Carolina has several residential green building program, including the Carteret County Home Builders Association; Haywood County Home Builders Association; Triad Green Building Council of the Greensboro Builders Association; Western North Carolina Green Building Council; and the Green Home Builders of the Triangle (Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange & Chatham Counties & Home Builders Association of Raleigh, N.C.).

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Filmmakers document 95-year-old store

BY HBSDEALER Staff

On any given day, a customer walking into Nichols Hardware to buy a couple of nails or a bag of mulch might be approached by a three-person film crew and asked about the experience.

The Purcellville, Va.-based store is the subject of a documentary called, “Nichols: The Last Hardware Store,” which is following a year in the life of the store, beginning in July 2008. According to Sarah Huntington, CEO of Lincoln Studios, which is producing the film, the goal is to share with audiences the sights and sounds of a business that has changed very little in the last 95 years.

“When you go into Nichols Hardware, you feel like you’ve entered a Norman Rockwell painting,” said Huntington, who lives locally and has been shopping at Nichols for about 20 years. “It’s the way the staff congregates at the counter, they way they know your name. It really is like heading back in time.”

Peter Buck, the film’s videographer, said he has interviewed about 15 customers thus far, with each sharing his or her unique experiences at Nichols both past and present. “Nichols Hardware really is an anachronism,” he said. “The amazing part is not that it’s still there, but that it operates as it did 80 or 90 years ago. They still do inventory every month by hand, and there’s a lot of inventory.”

The business was established as E.E. Nichols & Co. by Edward Enoch Nichols and partner Paul Ambrose in 1914 in the same downtown location where it sits today. These days, the store is run by Ken Nichols, Edward’s son — who at age 78 still comes to work just about every day — and Ken’s 62-year-old nephew, Ted Nichols.

The store has been expanded four times, but it still bears the touches of an earlier era. The original wood floors remain in parts of the building, and it smells of rubber and sawdust. Purchases are added on a calculator, and there’s only one computer in the store, which is used to place orders with suppliers (the store does much of its buying from Orgill, the Memphis, Tenn.-based distributor).

At the same time, Nichols caters to the modern DIY customer with a strong plumbing department, the complete line of Martin Senour paint and a large housewares offering. They also stock a lot of hard-to-find products that “you won’t see in the boxes,” according to Nichols, and he has carried on the tradition of selling furniture — including mattresses and bedroom suites — that his father started in the store’s early going.

Nichols still works at the same desk his father used — although it bears the stains of a fire that destroyed part of the business in 1940. That was the same year he started working after school and summers in the store, which then catered largely to Loudoun County’s 350 or so dairy farms.

“When the store was first built, we carried products for horses, like harnesses and bridles, and a lot of farm equipment,” Nichols said. But only one dairy farm remains in Loudoun County — most being replaced by housing developments — “so instead of selling farm equipment, we now sell lawn products and other products geared toward homeowners.”

In the mid-1990s, Nichols Hardware faced the challenge of larger hardware retailers coming into the area. A Hechinger opened in Leesburg more than a decade ago, followed by some other big-box stores in the area, prompting Nichols to open his doors on Sundays — something his family had never done before. “We did what we had to do to remain competitive,” he said.

One of the store’s main attractions is its staff, whose average tenure is in the 30-year range. A bookkeeper, 80-year-old Yvonne Lickey, has been at Nichols since 1949, another employee since 1952. “They are characters — in a wonderful way,” Huntington said. “It’s the mosaic of that store, the way they wait on customers. It’s the type of place you don’t get to see too often anymore.”

On the other hand, she is quick to point out that the store is not some dusty old museum. “It’s is busy, busy every day, every time we go there,” she said. “I think that’s the greatest part, that it’s still a thriving business.”

The future of the store, however, is in question, as Ken and Ted Nichols are the only family members still involved in the business. That’s why Huntington and Buck felt it was important to make this film, despite the fact that they have no financial backing for it thus far.

“When we tell people we’re doing a film about Nichols, the reaction we invariably get is, ‘It’s about time,’ ” Buck said. “It may be here another 100 years, or it may be closed in a year, so we felt it was important to document it and make sure the story of Nichols doesn’t get lost.”

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USGBC announces new board members

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) board of directors has appointed the following people to serve on the board:

• Carlton Brown, Full Spectrum Development (appointed to the Green Affordable Housing seat, two-year term)

• Walter Cuculic, Pulte/Del Webb Homes (appointed to the Production Home Builder seat, two-year term)

• John Dalzell, Boston Redevelopment Authority (appointed to the City/Community Development seat, one-year term)

• Roger Platt, Real Estate Roundtable (appointed to the Energy/Climate seat, one-year term)

• Rob Watson, EcoTech International (appointed to the International seat, one-year term)

The USGBC is a non-profit organization, composed of more than 15,000 organizations from across the building industry, whose goal is to expand sustainable building practices.

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