Wanting to operate a hardware store that offered more than just home improvement products, Tim and Mary Post opened T&M Hardware and Rental in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, in 1991 with the mission to serve their community. In the three decades since, the couple has grown the operation to six locations and has raised their four children in the industry.
Samantha Post says she and her three siblings all worked for their parents in the store after school and on weekends when they were teenagers to earn extra money. After graduating from college, Samantha and her brother Scott worked in the corporate world before returning to positions in the family business. Scott came back to the company in 2012 and Samantha returned in 2013. They both use the real-world experience they gained in their outside careers in their new roles at T&M Hardware and Rental. Samantha is the company’s HR and marketing manager and Scott works as the purchasing and rental manager.
“While I don’t have a formal background in home improvement, you can’t help but learn the ropes (pun intended!) and end up with an MBA when you grow up in a hardware store,” Samantha says.
From Parents to Partners
Like many other family businesses, making the transition from a parent-child relationship to a relationship of business partners took some navigating, Samantha says. She and her brother also had to work through the generational differences between their parents as baby boomers and themselves as millenials.
“We have been able to successfully manage this complex dynamic by ‘staying in your lane’ as we like to say. We try not to take things personally so they don’t affect us as a family outside of work,” Samantha says. “Each of us handles a different aspect of the business and act as the primary decision-maker for our respective areas, but the decision-making process and execution requires us to keep in constant contact with each other.”
Almost daily, Samantha is in contact with not only her parents and Scott, but also her other siblings and their spouses.
“It’s really nice because we were lucky to connect with each other once or twice a month when my brother and I worked for someone else,” she says. “Now, we all get to see each other regularly and work together often, which is super helpful, and because we were all raised by the same people, we all share the same work ethic.”
Leaving a Legacy
Family doesn’t stop with those bearing the Post name; every T&M Hardware employee is considered and treated as family, Samantha says. The Posts strive to ensure employees have a healthy work-life balance. For example, if a staff member has a family emergency or other personal need during the work day, Samantha says they always encourage the employee to take care of their family first. The remaining team members step up to operate the store shorthanded and cover their co-workers’ shifts. The Post family also stays up to date with new babies, school milestones, weddings and other family news.
“We’ve helped our staff navigate buying homes and vehicles and have helped how we could when employees have lost their spouses,” Samantha says. “When the younger kids who work for us come back to the area, they always stop in to say hello and keep us updated on where they’re at in their lives.”
As part of the family, employees’ voices are heard and also taken into consideration, something that is key to the company’s culture. Tim and Mary started the business because they wanted the opportunity to follow their passions on their own terms, Samantha says. Being able to have their ideas heard and accepted was a big contributor to Samantha and Scott leaving the corporate world and returning to the family business.
While Samantha says there’s a time and place for requiring consistency across all stores, they also encourage store managers to make their own decisions for their stores regarding product mix, in-store sales, staffing and culture.
“Because of our experiences working for someone else, it’s important that our culture provides our teams with the same sense of independence while toeing the line of being a small corporation with our six locations,” she says. “We want them to share in that entrepreneurial spirit without taking on the full risk that comes with being a true entrepreneur.”
The company’s success over the last 30 years and ability to weather a pandemic, product shortages and inflation issues comes down to three key aspects, Samantha says.
“We take advantage of every opportunity we can, we have the ability to make decisions and we have faith and trust in ourselves and each other,” she says. “It’s as simple and as complicated as that for us.”
Samantha says her parents are looking toward retirement and leaving the company in the capable hands of her and her siblings.
“As my father looks to sunset his career in the near future, he is focusing on preparing my siblings and I to carry on the family legacy and incredible business he and my mom have created,” she says. “We know we have big shoes to fill, but we look forward to continuing the legacy they are leaving us.”
From the Inside Out
In 2019, Samantha Post was named one of the North American Hardware and Paint Association’s Young Retailer of the Year honorees. The honor recognized her commitment to grow her career and her family’s business. When she came back to the family business in 2013, her parents were focused on external growth, so she aimed to improve the operation internally. Samantha improved the company’s marketing efforts, creating a digital advertising strategy and implementing a branding program to connect all six of the company’s locations.
Using her background in behavioral sciences, Samantha introduced new hiring tools that aided in retention and reduced turnover. In the three years since she’s received the honor, Samantha has continued to support the communities where the operation has stores, especially during the challenges that the pandemic brought on in the last three years.
“Our family has done a phenomenal job navigating product shortages, inflation and retaining employees through it all, and I couldn’t be more proud of that,” she says. “My focus continues to be developing our human resources, automating our operations where applicable and finding creative avenues to sell products online, mainly through social media right now. We just launched our new website, so I’m excited to grow our e-commerce business.”
Learn more about the Young Retailer of the Year program and nominate an outstanding and deserving young retailer under the age of 35 at YourNHPA.org/yroty.