For the fourth installment of Renee on the Road, staff members from the North American Hardware and Paint Association toured Ohio home improvement retailers and a paintbrush manufacturer. Joining retail engagement specialist Renee Changnon on this trip were associate editor Lindsey Thompson and graphic designer Olivia Adam.
The first stop in Ohio was Hartville Hardware, the largest hardware store in the U.S. Before the group toured the 305,000-square-foot store, they enjoyed a scratch-made lunch at Hartville Kitchen and browsed the on-site bakery and Shops at Hartville Kitchen. Also part of the company’s 200-acre campus in Hartville, Ohio, is the Hartville Marketplace & Flea Market, the largest indoor/outdoor flea market in the country.
Social media manager Titus Kurtz led the tour and talked about the company’s history and what makes Hartville Hardware unique. The store has just about every category imaginable and has many unique niches as well, serving local and destination shoppers alike. Amanda Simms, merchandise presentation manager and graphic designer, offered insights on the store’s layout and merchandising. Simms designs and prints all the store’s signage and marketing materials in house, allowing for better control of branding and messaging to customers.
The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. President Scott Sommers attributes much of the operation’s success to treating its customers, employees and community like family.
“It sounds cliche, but we really do strive to treat people like we want to be treated,” he says. “People respond positively to that attitude, and they want to know and trust you’re going to take care of them.”
The next stop was Summit Paint in Barberton, Ohio. The company also has a location in Akron, Ohio, and has been serving the paint needs of contractors and customers in Northeast Ohio since 1986. President Nelson Roder and vice president Craig Goos gave the group a tour of the store, sharing what products its customers love the most. The store services mostly contractors in the area, but also has some DIY customers.
The store has an impressive selection of Wooster Brush Co. paintbrushes, rollers and sundries, appropriate as the Wooster Brush Co. headquarters is just 30 minutes away. Paint brands available include PPG and Benjamin Moore, and the store also sells Zar stains, with plans to soon carry General Finishes stains.
As an extra layer of customer service, the store has boards stained with the different colors the store carries. These boards give customers a better idea of what the stain will look like on the type of wood they are working with, Roder says.
“Customers love that they can make a quick stain choice much easier, as the stained boards are much more accurate than brochures or factory samples. They have even kept us from having to make samples in the back for customers,” Roder says. “We want to be as helpful as possible, and this is just another way we can help our customers achieve the best results with their projects.”
Wooster Brush Co.
Day two started at the Wooster Brush Co. factory in Wooster, Ohio, for a tour of the facilities where Wooster paintbrushes, paint rollers and trays are made. The company prides itself on being vertically integrated, with nearly every part and piece needed for products made in house. Quality control is another key aspect of the operation.
“Quality control touches all areas of our business. We have to be consistent with the product we produce on a day in, day out basis,” says president Ben Maibach. “Historically, the only way we’ve been able to continue to garner the market share we have and maintain the loyalty of our customers is to have regular inspections and maintain a high standard of quality.”
After the factory tour, the group visited the on-site museum for a deeper dive into the company’s history. The museum has items from the company’s beginning the through present day, including a salesman’s sample trunk from 1910, antique paintbrushes and the original time clock used by employees at the factory.
At the age of 18, Adam Foss founded Wooster Brush Co. in 1851. He bought a large box at a public auction in Cincinnati containing Chinese bristles, and with help of his brother, he began making and selling the first Wooster brushes door-to-door in Ohio.
E&H Hardware Wooster
For the final stop of the Ohio tour, Renee, Lindsey and Olivia visited E&H Hardware’s Wooster location, one of 29 locations throughout Ohio. The building once housed a department store and the Everything Rubbermaid store, and now it serves as a hardware store with three floors of merchandise and corporate offices on the fourth floor.
E&H Hardware Group traces its roots back to 1929 when Ed Buehler and his wife Helen started Buehler Food Markets. Through the years, Buehler’s continued to grow into new markets throughout northeast Ohio. In 1959, a hardware department was added to the Orrville, Ohio, location.
This location is the first in Wooster for the company. Customers can shop the typical hardware departments on the first three floors. There is a robust outdoor living section with grills, patio furniture and more on the first floor, along with a store-within-a-store called The Nook, which sells gifts, housewares and more.
“The Nook is a great addition to the other boutiques and stores in downtown Wooster,” says director of merchandising and procurement Scot Steele. “We worked with the other local businesses to carry items they weren’t, so we weren’t competing with one another and could offer more to customers.”
The second-floor houses paint, cleaning products, hand and power tools, lawn and garden, automotive and outdoor power equipment and the third floor is geared toward contractors with sections like plumbing, electrical and others.