Bringing the community together

Sometimes what keeps a business bustling through a recessionary period has nothing to do with market forces and legislative decisions.

While these two topics are regularly discussed at Ridgefield Hardware, owner Scott Hughes says neither has affected his ability to provide great service, convenience and – most importantly – a sense of community.

"The ownership, employees and all of our clientele are local," Hughes said. "It's that connection that you don't get with national firms."

Founded in 1914, Ridgefield Hardware is arguably the oldest operating hardware store by location in the Northwest. It's rested on the corner of Pioneer Street and Main Avenue for nearly a century, though at one point it shared its current square footage with a bank and a post office.

The store's history acts as a toehold into the community, but the local staff further supports its reputation as a town square of sorts.

In the face of the current economic climate, Hughes said the nostalgia and community at Ridgefield Hardware generate a uniqueness that has allowed his store to plateau when most of the larger chains posted losses. Knowing many of his customers by name has certainly helped Hughes in creating that level of familiarity.

Another difference in retail model that Hughes emphasized is Ridgefield Hardware's "do-it-yourself" nature. With a focus on small projects and necessities for homeowners, his store doesn't experience extreme lows and highs, whereas Lowe's and Home Depot are based largely on corporate accounts, appliance sales and new construction.

His niche is broad thanks to small-ticket, utility items. The product mix includes the usual painting, gardening, electrical and plumbing supplies, but it also offers a smattering of giftwares, housewares and toys. It's a rare breed of hardware store focused on convenience, saving its patrons the time and effort of traveling into town.

"Hardware is a critical commodity to have in any town, especially when you're miles from the closest supermarket or hardware chain," Hughes said. "We'll probably have 95 percent of what the average person needs as far as plumbing and electrical goods."

The trick is in keeping customers once the environment improves and Ridgefield's new interchange project brings in larger competition. Hughes said the change is inevitable and that he's already preparing Ridgefield Hardware to stay viable.

"As long as we know, see it coming and prepare for it, we should be okay. Those that don't foresee that, or are unprepared, will be finding a new line of work," Hughes said.

Preparation is necessary, but Hughes will always hold a competitive advantage in service. He knows his most valuable items are the personal connections he makes every day.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.