HARDWARE STORES

Sue Shaw articulates a ‘His & Her’ hardware concept

BY Steph Koyfman

If there’s one stereotype Sue Shaw, owner of Shaw Hardware in Plattsmouth, Neb., is in a position to disqualify, it’s that husbands are equally or more involved than their wives in running a hardware store.

“My husband said it was cheaper to buy me a store than let me keep shopping in them,” said Shaw. “So I took over the store and I run it by myself pretty much.”

Though she gets occasional help from her husband and kids, Shaw is very much the one with the passion for construction, home building, and working with her hands. The Shaws purchased the store a little over 18 months ago. As the fourth owner of the now 103-year-old location, Shaw assumes the mantle at an already established business, but she already has ideas for how to build on and improve the legacy.

For instance: Shaw Hardware was a finalist for the National Hardware Show Reimagine Retail contest, which awarded $100,000 to the store that best answered how it would use the money to improve its business.

Shaw didn’t take home the grand prize, but the store landed among 10 finalists (out of more than 100 entries) for its ambitions to boost its online presence, renovate the space to expand square footage, and create a space for local craftspeople to lead classes and young people to learn new skills.

Of course, some things are not broken and not being fixed, such as the provision of basic services like screen and window repair, sharpening, and custom framing and wallpaper. Shaw has added lamp repair to the roster, as well as an upscale kitchen area, a Milwaukee Tools selection, a home brewery, and a beekeeping section.

More than anything, Shaw has elaborated on what she calls a “his & her” hardware concept. Through a number of improvements to the store (swapping fluorescent lights for chandeliers, for example), plus the mere fact of her visibility as someone who is “more the hardware person than her husband,” Shaw is sending a message to women who are normally intimidated to go to hardware stores.

"We wanted it to be a place where they could come in and feel comfortable,” she said. “We always do [our display windows] as “his” on one side and “her” on the other. Over 50% of my clients are women. There’s a huge single woman household demographic. They like coming in because they can talk, and Pinterest is so big right now. They want to talk to someone about how they can [do projects]. Two ladies the other day were going gangbusters about putting their own bathroom in.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any hiccups in the process of establishing herself in the community.

“A lot of times people would look at me and go, ‘Is your husband here?”’ she said. “It took a little while for some of the older gentlemen to get accustomed to coming in asking a woman about plumbing issues.”

“Then again, an advantage I have is I’m not an intimidating person, and a lot of these young kids who have bought homes earlier in life have found themselves in a situation where they don’t know how to fix things,” she added. “So they can come in here and we sit down and go through it together, we fix it together, we celebrate their successes, and cry with their failures.”

Shaw’s core principle always goes back to this: to remind people that they’re a part of the community, and that they’re there to help. The other is that she’s constantly learning from her customers. This means she’s not afraid to admit it when she doesn’t know something, which can be a challenge for female retailers who are already dealing with imposter syndrome: a commonly cited experience (especially among women) of feeling undeserving and under-qualified, no matter how good you may actually be at your job.

“Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something. Most people appreciate it when I tell them right up front,” Shaw said.

“The worst thing you can do is send someone home with the wrong stuff. Too many times we feel pressured to pretend that we know what we’re talking about when we don’t, and I think that’s where you mess up because sometimes, you only get one shot at that customer. I quizzed everyone yesterday if they knew what two-headed nails were, and only one person knew. Sometimes I think it’s more empowering to say ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out.’”

The most recent issue of HBSDealer spotlighted women in the hardware retail industry. For our Women Who Mean Business cover story — and more excellent insight from female leaders in our industry — read on.

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HARDWARE STORES

Stihl Hardware All Stars: Conn., Del., Iowa

BY HBSDealer Staff

It takes a little more to be a Stihl Hardware All Star.

Since 2011, HBSDealer has reached out to suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, vendors, retailers and homeowners in search of high-performing, service-oriented, community-minded hardware store, lumberyard or farm and ranch dealers worthy of All-Star status.

It’s a tribute to this industry that each year brings a surplus of high-quality nominations. The companies profiled have earned their place on the list of 50 — one from each state. And they join an elite fraternity of honorees.

Here’s to the class of 2017. And here are three more stars worth gazing at.

Connecticut
True Value of Litchfield
True Value of Litchfield underwent a conversion in 2012 that continues to pay dividends. And the sales floor is covered in a building with significant curb appeal. But co-owner Roger Mahieu Jr. gives credit where credit is due: “Our customers have made us who we are today, with their loyalty and their suggestions,” he said. “In fact, we have comment cards, and we took a lot of them into consideration when we upgraded to Destination True Value. And it really paid off.”

Delaware
True Value Wilmington
True Value Wilmington’s Thomas Veasey is a big believer in customer convenience. “That’s why we work pretty hard to keep enough cashiers on call, and we have a lot of people on the floor,” he told HBSDealer. The store has been in the Veasey family since 1984, fending off bigger competitors. Second-generation owners Jason and Theresa Veasey have high expectations for 2017, as a store renovation that began in January nears completion.

Iowa
Lockridge Inc.
Five members of the Housh family keep 4 locations humming – Dale Housh, his wife Jill, sons Clint and Caleb (who also serves the community as mayor of Seymour, Iowa) and daughter Courtney. Together they help run a business that has grown from a small hardware store and lumber yard into a local leader in supplying materials for new home construction, remodeling, and farm and fencing. No detail is too small, including installation of solar panels on one of the store’s roofs.

See the full Class of 2017 All Stars  — presented by Stihl — in the May issue of HBSDealer.

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Stihl Hardware All Stars: Ariz., Ark., Ga.

BY HBSDealer Staff

It takes a little more to be a Stihl Hardware All Star.

Since 2011, HBSDealer has reached out to suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, vendors, retailers and homeowners in search of high-performing, service-oriented, community-minded hardware store, lumberyard or farm and ranch dealers worthy of All-Star status.

It’s a tribute to this industry that each year brings a surplus of high-quality nominations. The companies profiled have earned their place on the list of 50 — one from each state. And they join an elite fraternity of honorees.

Here’s to the class of 2017. And here are three more stars worth gazing at.

Arizona
Ace Hardware (22nd Street) of Tucson
Neon signage isn’t the only impressive collection in this store, the first Ace west of the Mississippi River. The 37,000-sq.-ft. honoree offers a world-class fasteners department, a woodworking and custom cabinetry workshop, and a hobby shop. Joe and Toni Findysz have also made room for a 10000-sq.-ft. housewares department. The store earned a coveted Ace “Coolest Hardware Stores” award in 2016.

Arkansas
Whit Davis Lumber Plus
This versatile home improvement All Star — with the slogan: “the Plus is Service” — has built its reputation in the Little Rock area for more than 60 years, and expanded with a fourth location in 2015. Specializing in garage door installation, zero-mess insulation, gutters and more, the company points to a staff with hundreds of years of experience in the industry for those building a new home or improving their existing home.

Georgia
Islands Ace Hardware
Whether a customer stops in for a 20-cent bolt or a $2,000 lawn tractor, they get treated as a special guest at this “cool” Ace Hardware store in Savannah known for eclectic items, from fishing bait and crab traps to perfumes. Owner Randy West, who opened the business 10 years ago, has a post office on premises to encourage gift-giving. In its expansive garden center, customers can interact with skilled gardeners to find the right item.

See the full class — presented by Stihl — in the May issue of HBSDealer.

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