Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: Ole’s Home Centers on the move

In 1984, a home center kicked off the new year with expansion and renovation.

BY HBSDealer Staff

The Jan. 2, 1984 issue of National Home Center News, the forerunner of HBSDealer, reported on the front page two major stores emanating from Pasadena, Calif. One was  “Ole’s set to by Neiman-Reed’s Lumber City,” and the other was: “Ole’s rolls out new whse image.”

In the vernacular of National Home Center News, “whse” was short for warehouse.

The talks to acquire Lumper City eventually led to an agreement. Perhaps of more interest to today’s business executives is the secondary story of how the company was spending millions to alter its image.

“Ole’s Home Centers is rapidly completing the conversion of all of its stores toward a modified warehouse format,” the article says about the chain that operated 32 stores in California and three in Nevada back in 1984.

Ole’s President Harvey Knell said: “It’s very much a matter of changing with the times. We change or we fall behind — and we won’t permit that.”

One key element of the revamp was the idea of “expansion of the cube upward, rather than horizontally,” explained Sean Lee, group VP of operations. Lee supervised the sweeping instore changes, and believed that emphasizing the vertical display of goods maximized their visual impact. Lee joined Ole’s from Montgomery Ward.

“The new Ole’s transformation involved the revamping of all stores in a two-month period, climaxing with the kickoff of the chain’s biggest promotion in its nearly 40-year history. The multimedia campaign featured Ole’s television spokeswoman, comedienne Phyllis Diller.”

HBSDealer’s Throwback Thursday is sponsored by Schaffer Associates, a national management consulting firm specializing in executive search and organizational strategies for the hardware, home improvement, building materials, and consumer products industries. As the premier management consulting firm serving the industry, we help build organizations and leadership teams that foster corporate growth and success well into the future. Contact us at


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