First, welcome to Spirit River. Were you a bit worried about taking over from such a popular local family?
Thank you very much. I have been feeling very welcome by everyone in the community. It’s been great having so many people stop in simply to introduce themselves and say welcome.
I’m not sure “worried” is the right term to use; there is obviously a level of expectation from the community to serve them in a particular way, and we hope to maintain that level of service. I think I’m more excited at the possibilities than worried about expectations. We have some exciting plans coming up.
What motivated you to take over the Spirit River Home Hardware store?
The motivation was primarily opportunity. Things all came together serendipitously.
How long have you been in the hardware business? You have a store in Valleyview as well?
I have not been in the hardware industry. I have family and extended family that have been involved in Home Hardware for many years. Initially, my sister Heather McKinnon (Valleyview Home Hardware) was looking into Spirit River Home Hardware. She approached me to join her in the family business.
Do you anticipate a difference between your Valleyview market needs and your Spirit River market needs? Or are they usually similar when it comes to a hardware store?
The Valleyview Home Hardware and Spirit River Home Hardware seem to have a number of similarities – the size of the towns, the services provided in town and the proximity to larger centres. I suspect as time goes on, we will find more and more similarities.
You have started uploading customer information in your system at the till. What is the main purpose of this?
We have started to input customers into the computer, and this is simply a means to retrieve previous sales information: maybe someone needs warranty and doesn’t have a receipt, or maybe a customer wants another raised flower bed like the one purchased last year. The information is retrieved via phone number. Simple.
In one instance, a customer came in looking for his tool purchase history since his truck had been stolen. The information kept for him was valuable to the insurance claim.
The timing was not great with COVID-19 hitting pretty much right after you purchased the Spirit River Home Hardware. Has this caused you to put any plans on hold that you wanted to implement?
We have had to make a few tweaks to our plans. Originally, I had no intentions of living above the store. Since COVID-19 struck and my son Lucas is home all day, it only made sense to have us both under the same roof. So, I moved out of the rental house. Some people are working from home. I just moved into work, I suppose.
We also have plans inside the store, but we cannot access the products we want until the supplier goes back into operation. Ideally, we can get our project going throughout the summer.
We have plans to make the store wheelchair accessible and change the layout a bit, which will add more shelves allowing us to carry more options.
Aside from that, moving to a new town during a pandemic has been limiting on what Lucas and I can do socially to meet new friends and experience the area. I’m sure we will be able to explore a little more this summer.
You and your staff seem to have adapted to the “current normal” very well. Other than toilet paper and hand sanitizer, do you have an idea yet of which products move off the shelves quickly?
This question is going to be interesting to watch for a while, I’m guessing. Soil and peat moss have been in limited supply. Freezers are also on back order for the time being. It may get more challenging before it gets better. Considering many workers throughout the supply chain are at home in isolation, we will likely see different products on back order lists due to lack of production of manufacturers waiting on their supply chains. The ripple effect will likely go on for sometime.
We are listening to what people want and are trying to search out new supply lines. We appreciate the patience while we all figure out how normal the new normal might be.
What is the biggest challenge in running a hardware store?
The biggest challenge I have found, so far, is having enough space in the store to have everything in stock. I can’t wait for the new fixtures to be ordered and get started on the big project we have been planning.
Home Hardware’s slogan has always been “home of the handyman.” Are you a handyman?
I like to think of myself as a handyman. Painting and mudding are admittedly my least favourite home renovation tasks, but my dad taught me how to maintain and repair a house. I’m quite comfortable getting into most any project around the house.
What is the biggest project you have ever attempted?
I don’t think any one was much bigger than the other. They’re really all just a collection of little projects. I’ve finished the basement in my house in 2007, and did a full renovation of a house in 2009. That project started as a soft floor under a toilet and turned into a little bit of everything – resizing interior doors, new floors, cabinets, exterior door, 2 bathrooms, paint throughout, new trim, etc. – that we finished a week after Luc was born.
Spirit River Home Hardware may be the biggest project to date.
What do you like to do when you are not working?
Not working? Can you explain what that is?