Building a modern classic in New Jersey

We asked Drew Hubiak how it feels to be in the 2018 class of Stihl Hardware All Stars. The owner of Bernardsville Hardware & Supply since 2016 and Califon Lumber since 2000 said “I don’t consider myself an All Star, but thank you.”

That’s just like an All Star to be modest and polite. But he and his team are also passionate, savvy, scientific and successful.

A good sample of the Bernardsville Hardware team graces the cover of the May issue of HBSDealer magazine, which celebrates high performance retailing and the 2018 class of Stihl Hardware All Stars.

“That was a great day,” he said of the 2016 opening, captured by the cover photo. “And that’s how we operate every day. We have a lot of fun. It’s family. And it’s just our passion.”

Califon Lumber Hubiak acquired Califon Lumber in 2000.

Hubiak’s adventures in the hardware and building supply business began in 1985, when, as a 19-year-old, he loaded trucks and stocked shelves for Califon Lumber. After 15 years, he purchased the lumberyard. And after another 15 he became aware of an old-fashioned, time-honored store for sale in Bernardsville, following the death of a previous owner.

“To me, the decision to buy the Bernardsville store was based on passion more than anything else,” he said. “I just felt the community needed that and wanted that, and we also saw an opportunity for ourselves to grow.”

Hubiak’s wife, Renee, and daughter, Ashley, are in the business along with him, as well as his son-in-law. Two other daughters are following “different passions,” he said. And one son is in the U.S. Air Force.

Everybody loves a vintage hardware store — especially Hubiak. But he also knows the bottom-line value of exciting end caps, navigable aisles and inviting layouts.

“It had that old feel to it. It was messy and dusty and dirty — it just didn’t feel like that was going to quite cut it in that area,” he said. “The customer count is incredible, the clientele is more upscale and I think they demand something more modern, something clean. And we pulled in Do it Best to help us bring that store to a whole different level. We were counting on their science. Because that’s what retail has become — a science.”

The result is a blend of modern with the old-fashioned and warm, modern and friendly. The retailer’s co-op “helped us achieve that, while maintaining an old-fashioned feel of customer service and being welcomed and feeling like your walking into a place where we know your name.”

The personal touch and relationship between the hardware store and homeowner is key to the success of the hardware store, he said. And even as digital disruption works on the retail industry, there will always be a place for a good, local hardware store, he said.

“When you got a problem with a toilet, or something is broken in the house, then you need immediate help. You can’t wait to order something even if it comes the next day,” he said. “The homeowner needs the product right away, and they need professional advice. And that’s our survival. I believe there will always be a need for our business, for that go-to place for advice.”

See the full Class of 2018 Hardware All Stars — presented by Stihl — in the May issue of HBSDealer magazine.