Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: Wizards of the Coast

Ray Griffith remembers Coast to Coast Hardware, and a pair of memorable mentors.

BY HBSDealer Staff

The July 6, 1992 issue of National Home Center News, the forerunner of HBSDealer, covered the changing of the guard at Coast to Coast, the hardware co-operative. President Ken Hoffman had announced his plans to retire. His successor: a 38-year-old Ray Griffith.

Griffith, of course, would later become CEO of Ace Hardware Corp. and earn a spot in the Home Channel Hall of Fame. Now retired, Griffith explained his admiration for Hoffman and Coast’s Senior VP Rollie Carlson in an e-mail exchange.

“We spent a lot of time together during the fifteen years I was at Coast,” said Griffith. “Road trips were always interesting and fun. I learned the co-op hardware business from them and developed a love for entrepreneurs working with them and our successful Coast retailers.

Griffith, speaking at an Ace Convention, circa 2010.

“Those days were full of challenges and fun. As I reflect back on Coast it is evident to me that we were light years ahead of other hardware distributors in terms of data collection and retail practices.  No one operated stores like a Coast to Coast store. To a large part that was attributed to Ken and Rollie’s leadership.

“Ken Hoffman was a fun-loving hardware warrior who was like everyone’s dad or grandpa. He was an icon in the hardware industry, and he always put the retailers first.  His motto and litmus test regarding a program’s viability was: “is it good for our retailers?” He also loved to sing a little Sinatra. Ken Hoffman was a man of his word and a truly great guy.

“Rollie was Ken’s right hand man and more of a flashy extrovert who also enjoyed life. Rollie was innovative, colorful, smart and tough. He had contracted polio in his younger days, but that didn’t stop him from doing anything. His signature marks were bright colorful ties and his cane he needed as a result of the polio. The two of them were like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. I was in awe of both of them and their talents. “

Griffith also shed light on his experiences with the business side of Coast to Coast, which merged with Cotter & Company in 1997, and later rebranded under the True Value banner. Griffith wrote:

“I came to Coast to Coast stores in 1978/79 when I was 25. I had worked for Osco Drug stores and was recruited to run one of about seven new corporate Coast to Coast stores.  The one I was to manage was in Circleville, Ohio. Ken and Rollie were both in Corporate roles at the headquarters in Minneapolis.  At the time, Coast was a part of Household Finance that had a retail division consisting of Von’s grocery stores, Ben Franklin, Coast to Coast Hardware and a couple of furniture outlets. Roger Stangeland was president.

“Coast went through several transactions as Household spun off the retail businesses, and eventually Richard Bard bought Coast and relocated it to Denver, Colorado, where he lived and had a vacant office building. Richard took Coast public, then back private, and in that process Amdura Corporation bought it and eventually took it into bankruptcy. In the end, Coast could not support Amdura’s other losing subsidiaries and debt load. Ken had assumed the role of president, but the company’s predicament was not a result of his leadership.”

Where are Ken and Rollie now? “To my knowledge Ken still resides in a northern suburb of Chicago and Rollie resides in the Minneapolis area where he is a general manager for a couple of golf clubs.”

If you have memories of Coast to Coast, share them with us at [email protected].


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 SchafferAssociates.com

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Paul Kluempers says:
Aug-09-2018 05:05 pm

My first real job out of college was as a Project Manager at Coast in Ray's Eastern division. I travelled the country setting up new stores and re-merchandising existing ones. I'd spend a few months at each job and consequently got to know the area and, especially rewarding, got to know the store owners. It started me on a path of entrepreneurship and in hardware/building materials, a road on which I am still traveling. One of the most fun jobs I have had! -- Paul Kluempers, General Manager, AG-CO

T.MCDERMOTT says:
Aug-09-2018 09:18 am

Thanks for sharing this history Ray, it sure was a great company, one of my personal favorites to work with!

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Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: Rickel heads HoM

In 1990, a pioneering home center tried something new.

BY HBSDealer Staff

The Jan. 8, 1990 issue of National Home Center News, the forerunner of HBSDealer, reported on the big plans at Rickel Home Centers to introduce a prototype that leaned toward home decorating and home furnishing, and leaned away from its hardware roots.

The new prototype had a name: “HoM by Rickel.” In an article under the headline “The ‘New’ Rickel,” the prototype was described as a sort of hybrid of Conran’s and IKEA. The product mix of the new 67,000 sq. ft. prototype in Toms River, N.J., featured home furnishings, ready-to-assemble furniture, housewares, and kitchen and bath products. Building products were virtually eliminated.

“Rickel has been a bare bones home improvement chain for years,” said Robert Harrow, Rickel president. We’re now trying to get the look and feel of a department store.”

Moreover, the company was cleaning up its act, literally, at all of its stores. As the article explained, the chain was looking to change its reputation as a messy merchandiser. Unsold inventory was being weeded out, floors and bathrooms were freshened, displays were being standardized. And at the same time, morale was being addressed in the form of an enhanced training program. Plus: “Uniforms, in the form of jackets, smocks or vests, are being issued to store workers,” the article reported.

The Rickel Brothers company has earned its place in retailing history as an early pioneer in the home center field. It grew to more than 100 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut in the 1980s. But faced with heavy competition in the 1990s by warehouse stores, the Rickel store count eventually dwindled to around 40, and in 1997, the company’s board of directors decided to close its doors.

# # #

Throwback bonus: On the same page as the “The New Rickel,” National Home Center News reported another new store concept under the headline: “Handy Andy enters closeout market.”.  Across the parking lot from a traditional Handy Andy Home Improvement Center in western Milwaukee was the first Home Owners Bargain Outlet, or HOBO.

It marked the Illinois-based company’s first effort in closed out home improvement merchandise, and one of the first in the Midwest.

“We’re appealing to the pickup truck contractor, the extremely price-conscious DIYer, or the serious DIYer with a big project and not much money,” said Steve Kadish, the president of Handy Andy.

What are your memories of Rickel and Handy Andy? Let us know at [email protected]


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 SchafferAssociates.com

 

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Throwback Thursday: E-commerce Pioneers

Whatever happened to Hardware.com? The August 2000 issue of NHCN has the answer.

BY HBSDealer Staff

At the recent turn of the century, the e-retailing business was bubbling. Some would call it frothy. And of course, not every well-conceived plan achieved dot-com gold.

By the time the August 2000 issue of National Home Center News, hit newsstands, the shakeout had begun. The magazine, the forerunner of HBSDealer, reported the demise of two pioneering companies that never made it to the promised land: Hardware.com, and Living.com. The headline: “Two e-tailers fade to black” captured the heart of the story.

Hardware.com was described as one of the first online home improvement stores to go live. It began its run in 1998 as Superbuild.com, “the home improvement superstore.” The company’s effort to pivot in June 200 into a full-service online supplier catering to remodelers and small contractors failed to stick. Ultimately, the company was folded into Wal-Mart.com.

Today, the web address brings one to a UK-based technology company.

Living.com took a different path to the digital graveyard. The Austin, Texas-based company sold furniture, lighting, rugs and decor. Feeling pressure in May 2000, the company agreed to pay Amazon $145 million for the rights to fulfill all orders in a “Home Living” store on Amazon’s Web site. But a few weeks later, the company shed 50 employees, and it discontinued operations later that year.

Today, Living.com brings one to the Discovery channel.

The year 2000 article also included interesting analysis from Sean Curry, who was chief operating officer of HomeTownStores.com. That web site was steadily thriving by emphasizing traditional business best practices. Curry explained: “We didn’t give away the house, we didn’t’ offer free shipping, we didn’t go crazy advertising ourselves,” he said. We are running a sustainable and profitable slow-growing business. Looking back, we’re so glad we didn’t get any venture capital and ride the fast train.”

Hometownstores.com automatically redirects to the home page of Curry Ace Hardware, operators of three stores in Massachusetts.


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 SchafferAssociates.com

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b.jones says:
Jul-31-2018 04:56 am

Not doing ventures and doing a slow growing business is I think a far better way of doing business rather than giving free shipments or offers and things like those.I can totally relate to curry.WilliamJacket

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