Doubling Down

Doubling Down

Home Pro Keeps Growing by Opening Second Store in Tennessee

House-Hasson is the biggest company I’ve dealt with that treats you like family. I can’t imagine being with anyone else.

Four years ago, Terry Garrison took a risk by moving his business, Home Pro, to a new location in Westmoreland, Tenn. The move paid off as the larger location enabled him to expand into new product categories while operating a much larger yard.

Not content to rest on his past success, Garrison is pushing the envelope again in an attempt to grow his business in a new direction. In March he opened a second store in nearby Hartsville, Tenn., hoping to capitalize on a void in that market.

“I’d been thinking about adding another store for several years but was waiting for the right opportunity,” he says. Hartsville had been without a hardware store for four years and when an old Dollar General site became available, Garrison jumped at the chance.

He started moving in the first week of January, ripping out the tile and reclaiming the original hardwood floors. Merchandise was set up beginning in mid-February, with House-Hasson providing help every step of the way. A grand opening was planned for May. “House-Hasson was very helpful with financing for the new store. I couldn’t have done it without them,” Garrison says.

“David Helfenberger is so good at analyzing a market and telling you how to approach your business. At his suggestion, we pulled inventory from Westmoreland and they backfilled the rest—probably saved us $50,000 at the beginning. That was a great idea,” Garrison says. “And he’s not afraid to tell you when you’re screwing up—he’s there for you.”

Garrison has been buying from House-Hasson since he purchased an existing store eight years ago. “I have a great relationship with everyone and have made great friendships. House-Hasson is the biggest company I’ve dealt with that treats you like family. I can’t imagine being with anyone else.”

He considers his House-Hasson sales rep, Jeff McMahan, a great friend. “He’s a phone call away and is very helpful in making sure my needs are met. You can talk to any of the buyers at House-Hasson and make suggestions and if you call customer service they recognize your voice,” he says.

The new store features a 6,500-square-foot salesfloor but no outside storage. Garrison points out that an additional 18,000 square feet of space is available if things go well. “People here are used to traveling out of town to get what they need. Our job is to capture them and keep them here and Priced Right Everyday!®is a big part of that,” he says. “We’re getting a lot of comments from customers about how nice it is to have somewhere to shop in Hartsville.”

He even bought out an existing paint store in Hartsville, which enables him to establish Home Pro as the dominant destination for paint. Another plus has been the new products added as a result of House-Hasson’s purchase of Moore-Handley.

Garrison takes the time to customize and fine-tune his pricing, staying on top of the competitive situation by price-shopping Lowe’s and Home Depot, which operate in Gallatin and Lebanon. “A lot of times we come back and raise our prices,” he says. “Our advantage is the one-on-one attention we give customers. We get to know them by name and develop trust.”

The Westmoreland store is a full-fledged lumberyard on five acres. It used to capture 65 percent of its sales from pros and 35 percent from DIYers and now those numbers are reversed due to the housing slowdown. “Pros are starting to get busy again. We’re gearing up to service pros here in Hartsville by offering packages out of Westmoreland,” Garrison says.

“A lot of dealers get set in their ways, but we operate in an ever-changing industry,” he points out. “House-Hasson is there to help you if you use them. They’ll listen to your ideas and offer advice if asked,” says Garrison, who serves on the company’s Dealer Advisory Council.

Attending the House-Hasson markets is another good way for him to stay connected. “I haven’t missed a market yet. It’s a great chance to buy margins and you see dealers you’ve gotten to know so you can bounce ideas off them,” he says. “I was able to talk to Mike Drew about issues we’d face with opening a branch store and he gave a lot of excellent advice. You can talk one on one with Don Hasson and the buyers or find out about store services. It’s always fun,” he adds.

While he likes to get out of the store and get ideas from other places, Garrison says opening a branch store has given him fresh insights into his business. “Now I see the other store like a customer sees it, because I have a new perspective on it.”

Claiming he’s the type of retailer who is never satisfied, Garrison is constantly moving products and expanding assortments. “My job is to look for products, find new items that are unique and keep the store looking fresh. It’s hard to remove yourself from day-to-day issues but you’ve got to find a way,” he says.

Although his immediate goal is to get his second store established in the market, Garrison is receptive to opening a third location if he finds another market that needs Home Pro. “Nothing ever runs 100 percent smooth, but I’m glad I opened this new store. It just takes time to build the business,” he says.

Nobody likes a slowdown, but Garrison didn’t panic when his sales dropped 30 percent in 2008 and 2009. “You pull positives out of negatives. We need to really watch how we do business and keep an eye on things. If you cut advertising or drop inventory people will quit coming. We kept our inventory up,” he says. “If and when business rebounds I’ve learned my lessons and will benefit.”

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