No matter how much work you think it takes to open a hardware store, it takes more. Sam Yoder learned that the hard way, although he wasn’t exactly surprised. The Amish retailer learned he could rely on House-Hasson for help, but he was more than willing to do his share of the work as well.
Yoder’s Home & Hardware opened in the middle of Amish country in Walnut Creek, Ohio, this past April. “I just felt the area needed a good hardware store,” Sam explains.
Sam bought an old IGA grocery store building, a process that took a year, and then he spent three months remodeling the entire inside with the help of one other guy. Sam’s background is in the construction business, so he was up to the task.
He decided to go with House-Hasson as his hardware supplier, because he felt they were more geared to smaller stores like his. “There was a dealer in nearby Winesburg that recommended them. I checked out a few of their stores and liked what I saw,” Sam says.
House-Hasson helped him plan the assortment for his 6,500-square-foot store, which he’s tweaked a lot since then. “My sales rep, Mike Brauchler, spent an entire day going through assortments with me and helping me choose items,” Sam says. “I’ve almost doubled the number of SKUs since then. I try to add something new every week, which makes it interesting for customers.”
He filled in spaces on shelves by listening to customer requests. “People around here understand that you’re new and are still adding merchandise, but our regular (Amish) customers expect us to have what they need soon after opening,” Sam explains.
Sam put in all the shelving and designed the store layout himself. “House-Hasson suggested a layout, but I changed it to my liking. They had a crew in here for four to five weeks setting everything up and then I spent a month redoing it some and pricing everything,” Sam says.
He is very pleased with how the store turned out, and is slowly seeing customer traffic pick up. Many of the customers are Amish, and Sam has a good idea of the products they would be interested in.
Some of those products are locally made, such as soy candles with the Yoder brand name and large furniture pieces like dining room tables, beds, dressers and bar stools that are handmade by Sam’s father and appeal to tourists.
From spring until July, lawn and garden was the best-selling category. Now paint and Cabot stain are strong sellers along with plumbing. To further boost sales, Sam plans to add big-ticket items like wood stoves, heaters or appliances.
They held a grand opening for the store in August and are real happy with how that went. Sam ran an ad in the local newspaper to build awareness and plans to start with House-Hasson’s circular program soon.
“House-Hasson gives us good service and I’m very pleased with them,” says Sam. “Our truck driver is exceptional and our salesman, Mike, is great. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
He likes attending the markets, where he does a lot of buying. “The shows are very nice and you get to meet all the vendors,” he says.
All in the Family
Yoder’s Home & Hardware is a true family business. Sam’s wife, Mary, does the bookkeeping and his two nieces work the front counter. Sam still has a full-time crew that does construction work for him, which helps pay the bills while he slowly builds up the hardware business.
“It takes a few years to get the wheel turning with a start-up business. I spent a lot of money on product and even more for the building,” he says, adding that he appreciates the favorable payment terms he received from House-Hasson.
The local economy is doing well, bolstered by strong tourism and a large number of local plants. They are 15 miles from a big-box store and there are two independent stores within five miles, but Sam feels they stand out with their service. “It’s the little things like helping them load their car,” he says.
Although the store currently has lights running off electricity, Sam plans to put in a solar-powered generator. He also makes some use of technology, using a CipherLab device for ordering and having a computer with House-Hasson’s catalog on it. “It works very well for what our needs are,” Sam explains.
Looking back on the path he has traveled to open the store, Sam notes that there are a few things he would do differently. “Knowing how much of everything to buy—I have a better feel for that now. You have to think for customers and display items in a way they will notice,” he says. “But the most important thing is just to listen to them.”