Taking the Plunge Into Retail

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Taking the Plunge Into Retail

You might call Jody Caldwell an accidental retailer. He had been in the auto collision repair business for 30 years. That business was bought out three years ago and he retired.

“I’d always been involved with commercial properties. This building—which had been a hardware store in the past but vacant for several years—had gone through a bank foreclosure,” Caldwell explains.

He decided to buy the building and then had his son-in-law, Jacob Israel, help him renovate it. They were planning to put it up for rent, until Jacob came up with an idea: why don’t they just put in a hardware store?

That is how the idea for Holly Springs Hardware & Garden in Lyman, S.C., was hatched.

There are quite a few housing developments in the works in the area and the local economy is strong, which makes it an attractive market for a hardware store. “I think other hardware stores in town were just ahead of their time, and ahead of the demographics,” says Caldwell.

Once he decided to open a hardware store, he had to find a wholesale supplier. “We got to shopping suppliers and met Bill Barnette of House-Hasson and really liked his philosophy about running a business,” Caldwell says. “I felt we should do some market analysis and Bill said that they could do that for us. The market analysis showed us that this store would be worth the effort.”

Holly Springs Hardware opened around Christmas time last year, with lots of assistance from various departments of House-Hasson. “We couldn’t have done this without House-Hasson’s help. I’m very impressed with what they’ve done for us,” Caldwell says. “They did the store layout and assortment plan and it was very thorough.”

He was especially pleased with how smoothly it went setting up the 5,000-square-foot sales floor. “It was a good group of guys doing the set-up work. We’re starting to tweak assortments some and they left me 50 feet of space to put our own twist on with niches,” Caldwell says.

Lending a Helping Hand

Since he is new to hardware retailing, Caldwell appreciates the regular presence of his House-Hasson territory manger, Bob Thomas. “Bob comes in weekly and gives us assistance with whatever we need. We usually have a list of questions for him. I appreciate the fact that he’s not just a salesman but more of a consultant,” he says.

They have really pushed the lawn and garden category with an outdoor garden center and they sell three varieties of mulch in bulk and by the bag. The store also offers small engine repair, which is Jacob’s background, and they are in the process of getting the repair shop set up.

Caldwell adds, “House-Hasson has helped us with being in stock and with knowing what customers need. I never realized how much involvement was needed in inventory.”

House-Hasson helped them establish an initial pricing structure and have influenced their decisions with advertising and marketing. To date, the store has primarily been promoted through Facebook and the website, with plans to start on Twitter soon.

Caldwell has been very pleased with the reaction so far from the community. They had about 500 people attend their grand opening celebration in late March.

“I feel the need with people—they want the relationship,” says Caldwell, who adds that they are 30 minutes from the nearest big box plus a few mom and pop hardware shops within 10 minutes. “We can see that the demographics are coming here in our favor.”

Setting up the ECi RockSolid point-of-sale system is a key component of their inventory management strategy.” I’m a numbers guy. I want to see a track record of performance and sales history and you need a POS system for that,” Caldwell says.

He really likes the Etoolbox program and finds it intuitive. “We get a lot of support out of the Etoolbox. We also bought the new CipherLab scanning device and that’s been very handy,” he says.

Having attended several dealer markets, Caldwell found plenty of good deals there. “House-Hasson does a first-class job with the shows. They are a lot of fun to attend.”

All in the Family

Caldwell’s daughter, Amanda Israel, is also involved in the business handling the bookkeeping. Working with family members has been very gratifying to Caldwell as he approaches the twilight of his business career.

“I am open to the idea of having a second store,” he says. “I intend to pass on the business to Jacob and Amanda, so I want them to have a viable, prosperous business.”

This new store is off to a good start, and Caldwell points out that they would not have been able to do this without Bill Barnette’s input. “I did not want to join a co-op or be part of a chain, and House-Hasson is the best fit for us.”

He adds, “I’ve always been a big advocate of the concept of teamwork. If our business flourishes, then they (House-Hasson) will too. No matter what I’ve needed, there’s someone there who’s an expert. That’s real teamwork.”