Woydziak Do it Best lights up a small town
Things are looking a little bit like Christmas at Woydziak Do it Best in Lyons, Kan. Actually more than a little.
When a reporter called the store to inquire about its involvement in the Lyons, Kan., Lighted Christmas Parade, the distinctive sound of Christmas carolers could be heard in the background. “Oh, those are the local middle school children,” said Jason Huddleston, co-owner with his wife Danica. “We have them in the store today.”
Woydziak stepped up to take the reins of the Lyons Annual Lighted Christmas Parade in 2016, when it appeared to be on the brink of shutting down. The support continued – and participation doubled — in 2017, with 52 floats and one of the biggest events of its kind to illuminate Lyons main street. [The store's Facebook page has photos of the parade.]
Not only that, Santa Claus himself made an appearance in the store Dec. 16. And the middle school carolers — all 30 to 40 of them — were raising funds to help families in need.
The Huddleston’s have owned the hardware store in Lyons for about 8 years. Asked how these events, and others like them throughout the year, contribute to the success of the hardware store, Jason did not hesitate: “It’s immense. The impact is unbelievable, especially in a smaller town like Lyons (population 3,800). People here are gung-ho on community involvement. And it helps business as customers realize that we’re not here just to take their money, we’re here to build this community.”
Award-winning small business talks growth
Carr Hardware, the six-store retailer based in Pittsfield, Mass., made headlines this month for winning a National Small Business Award. The retailer cruised to the award on the strength of community-first creed. And it already promised away its prize money to help renovate a park in Pittsfield.
In an interview with HBSDealer, Carr Hardware owner Bart Raser described his company as one with all the traditional strengths of a small business – veteran, knowledgeable employees; a friendly folksy culture; and an ability to make quick community-focused decisions.
But make no mistake, the company is growth oriented, and has opened two of its six locations in the last two years.
Opening a new store and expanding into new market can be a challenge for the small hardware store. “The one thing it forces you to do,” says Raser, “is it forces you to develop more controls and more discipline. Expanding helped us bring in better talent, and bring in more best practices. At the same time, we’re a folksy company and we can still make decisions with our gut.”
As an example of a decision that came from the gut, Raser described the time he went to visit a store going out of business for the sole purpose of acquiring its Lozier fixtures. He ended up walking out with the key to the store.
That kind of ability to make fast decisions, he said, is a “huge advantage” for small businesses facing competition from national chains as well as internet rivals.
“I think we’re heavily community integrated,” he added. “Customers view us as a community partner. A lot of our employees are career professionals and experts in their fields. And we benefit from warm fuzziness of shopping local.
Originally founded by Sam Carr in 1928, the company was purchased by the Raser family in 1962 and day-to-day operations are still handled by Marshall Raser, and his son, Bart.
When asked how it fetl to win the Independent We Stand National Small Business Award against competition from hardware stores, book stores, pet stores and all kinds of small businesses, Raser said: “I think we were very surprised, thrilled, excited, humbled – all of those words. We’re very proud.”
The ‘Indie’ award goes to Carr Hardware
With six stores and a loyal following in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, Carr Hardware took home the Independent Small Business of the Year award or Indie Award. Carr competed with a wide variety of small businesses to win the cash and prizes.
And as a sign that the retailer means what it says about giving back to the communities, it has already pledged to donate the $5,000 cash award to a park revitalization project in Pittsfield, Mass., home to the store’s main branch.
[See other hardware store finalists here]
“This year’s winner exhibits the spirit of what makes independent businesses special — a focus on both customer service and the community,” said Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand. “Carr Hardware garnered support through its mission to serve customers and the community by choosing a pay it forward approach with the prize winnings. The $5,000 cash prize will help pay for a splash pad at a community park. It’s that type of local involvement and dedication we see from our nominees each year across the country; this award helps us recognize and reinforce those efforts.”
Family owned and operated since 1928, the company was originally founded by Sam Carr and purchased by the Raser family in 1962. Marshall Raser and his son Bart still handle business operations. With more than 100 total employees, each location prides itself on offering years of specialty experience. Carr Hardware serves homeowners, contractors, commercial customers, institutions and government agencies throughout the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut and surrounding areas through their stores. The business also supports many organizations including Rotary Club, Berkshire Health Systems, Pittsfield Economic Redevelopment Commission (PERC), multiple Chambers of Commerce, Downtown Pittsfield Association, Boys & Girls Club, Berkshire Humane Society, Volunteer Dogs for the Blind and The Vocational & Technical Scholarship Fund.
In addition, employees are encouraged to volunteer in their communities and have served on Volunteer Fire Departments and coached local sports teams. Most recently, through product and cash donations, Carr Hardware provided its customers with a platform to support hurricane relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
“Our community supports us, and we support them. We saw that come full circle with our hurricane relief efforts in Houston earlier this year,” said Bart Raser, co-owner of Carr Hardware. “Now, to see the support of our customers lead to an award like this, it is humbling and even more meaningful. It’s nice to know we live in a community that appreciates the value and impact of independent small businesses. Shopping local is part of our culture; it’s how we build community.”
Carr Hardware, a member of the True Value Company co-op (and which also receives some product through Orgill), will receive prizes with a combined value of more than $50,000, including:
• $5,000 grand prize
• $1,000 for the winner’s favorite small business group
• $1,000 STIHL equipment certificate.
• 12-month subscription and three months of free managed marketing services from SnapRetail (valued at $1,696)
• Branding, advertising and public relations makeover from independent advertising agency — The Meridian Group
• Three days/two nights retreat and branding workshop in Virginia Beach, Va. (valued at $1,000)
• Plaque to display at winner’s business
• Public relations and social media recognition