Hardware Retailing

AUG 2017

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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August 2017 | HARDWARE RETAILING 91 Fire Frager's Hardware Washington, D.C. N ick Kaplanis, general manager and 20-year employee of Frager's Hardware, calls Washington, D.C., "a big city, but a small community." When a four-alarm fire engulfed the store in June 2013, Kaplanis and his team vowed not to let the hardware store, which had served the Capitol Hill area since 1920, close on their watch. Make Every Minute Count Immediately following the fire, the staff scouted locations for a temporary space to sell any undamaged merchandise and stay close to their longtime clientele. "I have a tremendous staff," Kaplanis says. "It's like we're one big brain and do what we have to do to keep things moving." Blocks away from their location was Eastern Market, a well-known destination for tourists and residents in the area. Following a 2007 fire, Eastern Market's owners built their own temporary retail space on the property, which they allowed Frager's Hardware to use during its recovery. Frager's began "Survivor Sales" on plants and outdoor items that hadn't been harmed in the blaze and sold T-shirts to help raise funds. By November 2013, additional locations near the store's former site had been secured to house the paint and hardware departments, allowing Frager's to operate out of three temporary locations. Be Adaptive and Flexible Managing three separate spaces proved challenging, but was a critical step in the store's recovery. Kaplanis says one side of Frager's Hardware was mostly undamaged and could still receive inventory, which he and his team then hauled to the store's temporary locations. In the year after the fire, Kaplanis estimates sales were around 60 percent of normal levels, but have risen each year, thanks to his team's resourcefulness. Online donations from longtime customers helped offset costs, and sales steadily rose as customers learned of the new locations. "We couldn't carry as much inventory as we did when we had the store, but we didn't fade from existence. That's the important thing," Kaplanis says. Store Your Data Off-Site Frager's Hardware had been an early adopter of cloud storage options, which kept important information like inventory details and financial data safe from the flames. Kaplanis credits his store's annual inventory audits and regular cloud data backups for allowing the team to open at Eastern Market just days after the fire. The frequent inventory checks greatly simplified the insurance claims process, which he says the store navigated with minimal trouble. "That's the No. 1 thing: Nobody thinks a major disaster is going to happen to them, but if it does, you've got to have all that stuff ready to go and fall back on so you don't skip a beat," Kaplanis says. Coming Home The store eventually consolidated its temporary locations around the site they found for the hardware department. Frager's will continue operating there until construction ends at its original location in early 2019. Frager's Hardware was recently sold to A Few Cool Hardware Stores, an 11-store independent chain in the area, but Kaplanis says the sale was unrelated to the fire and will not impact plans to rebuild at the original location. He says it was always his team's intention to return to their old home. "It's taken a long time, but we're patient," Kaplanis says. A fire engulfed Washington, D.C., institution Frager's Hardware in 2013. The store kept selling by opening multiple temporary locations as they rebuilt.

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