Hardware Retailing

MAY 2018

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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HARDWARE RETAILING | May 2018 118 Hardware Retailing (HR): Can you give us a little background on your company and how you got involved in the business? Was this your first career choice? Angela Merritt (AM): The hardware stores are an offshoot of Ederer Dairy Supply. My parents, Don and Jan Ederer, started the dairy business in 1973. When I was young, the business was actually in our house. We were all accustomed to having customers come to the house to get dairy parts. When I was in college, they bought an old lumberyard to operate the dairy in. From a young age, I answered the phone and recorded radio ads for the dairy. My parents joined HWI in 1997 when I was in college. (HWI became Do it Best in 1998 when it merged with regional co-op Our Own Hardware.) At the dairy, they install and service all the dairy equipment, and it made sense at the time to pair up with HWI. Initially, they didn't think they would have a hardware store. Then in 1999, they bought land in Plain, Wisconsin, and built a 15,000-square-foot hardware store. Then in 2000, my parents bought out another dairy equipment dealer in Blanchardville. The town didn't have a local hardware store, so we set up a space for the dairy equipment business and also added hardware to the mix. In 2012, we opened another store in Dodgeville. Initially, that location was going to be strictly dairy supplies, when the existing local hardware store closed, we expanded into hardware there, too. In college, I studied retail merchandising and management, and I always thought I would work with soft goods, like clothing. But one year out of college, I became the manager of Ederer's Do it Best in Plain. It wasn't my first direction, but 19 years later, it's definitely where I belong. HR: How do the businesses complement each other? AM: We supply the dairy with all kinds of equipment, like plumbing, electrical, fasteners and tools. The dairy staff buys things from my store, and we special order items for them. The same is true on my side. Some of our customers drive an hour to get dairy parts and supplies they can't find other places. They also utilize our hardware store. In southern Wisconsin, Ederer Dairy Supply is one of the bigger dairy suppliers. There are a few smaller dairy suppliers, but we bought up a lot of the competition. HR: When did you decide this is what you wanted to do? AM: I worked in management for Lands' End in Minneapolis right after college. It was a great company to work for, and I still use many of the retail tools I learned there. But, being from a big family, I felt like I was missing out on too many big events back home. About the time I was relocating to southern Wisconsin, my parents had started on the construction process on the Plain store, and they needed a manager for the hardware division. Initially, the excitement of filling and designing a new store was pretty great, but then reality set in, and I had to hire people, fire people, maintain prices, manage inventory, plan marketing. It was overwhelming at first, and I was young. I had to prove to a lot of customers that I could help them and that they didn't need the "guys in the back." I soon found out I really enjoyed helping people with their home improvement problems. It's very rewarding. Now, I manage three hardware stores. We're in the process of splitting the dairy and the hardware businesses. By the end of this year, I'll be my own LLC and I'll own the stores. HR: What unique challenges do you think independent retailers face in today's market? In your area? AM: Staffing is one of the toughest areas. Attracting and keeping good employees is challenging. I have been very fortunate and have amazing staff at each of my three stores, but I think it will be more challenging in the years to come. For us, word of mouth is the best place to get anyone. I even post openings on my personal Facebook page because I can get more quality candidates through recommendations. Obviously, in a small community Ederer's Do it Best • 3 Stores, Southern Wisconsin Angela Merritt

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