Hard times at the hardware store?
December 8, 2012
When Lowe’s opened in Silverthorne Aug. 9, some Summit County residents feared it would impact smaller, locally based operations.
Since then, the remaining small businesses competing for the home-improvement, industrial and hobbyist customer base have had mixed feelings about the presence of the national retail giant, but are striving to remain competitive.
Some businesses haven’t fared so well, however. Longtime, Marina-front business BigHorn Hardware, was up for auction Dec. 4. Bucksworth Supply in Frisco went out of business and the building is currently up for lease.
But most small, family-owned businesses assert that overall -with the improvement of the economy over the last year – sales are up and it’s business as usual.
“We’re doing fine, and you never know what’s around the corner, but right now we’re being aggressive and looking for opportunities for us to continue to grow this business,” said Al Zuckerman, owner of Greer’s Appliance Center, situated nearby Lowe’s in Silverthorne.
When a small business goes under, the community loses part of itself, Zuckerman said.
“It’s small businesses like myself, BigHorn and Bucksworth that have been loyal to this town and have employed and provided employment opportunities within the county – I hate to see them go out of business,” Zuckerman said. “When those jobs are taken away, we lose the opportunities for those companies and their employees to reinvest in the community. We lose some character of the community and we lose some services that may no longer be offered.”
However, Zuckerman worries that customers will assume that Lowe’s can offer better prices and shop there without looking around.
“Lowe’s has a national recognition and a really big sign,” Zuckerman said. “Our concern is that when customers are considering their appliance needs, their perception is that Lowe’s is cheaper and that they don’t take the time to find out if that’s really true.”
Some residents of the county refuse to give into “big box” shopping. Nick Svenlau, a resident of Breckenridge said he only shops locally.
“I don’t shop at Walmart and I’ve taken a vow not to shop at Lowe’s either – there are so many other great places to go and it’s important to support small, local businesses,” Svenlau said. “There’s nothing local about Lowe’s even if they say they’re bringing jobs to the county, a lot of their employees were brought in.”
Doug Cousino, the general manager of Lowe’s, moved to Summit County from Lowe’s in Cambridge, Minn., where he worked as a store manager, to fill the position at the new store.
Cousino said that the majority of his full-time and part-time staff are longtime Summit County locals.
Cousino said approximately 10-15 percent of his workforce was hired from within the corporation, leaving more than 100 jobs that were filled locally.
“It was a very competitive hiring process,” Cousino said. “We’re happy that we brought jobs to Summit County, with all of our positions paying exceptionally well.”
Benne Henderson, who was shopping at Lowe’s with her husband Saturday morning, said the store offers more convenience.
“I normally support the local businesses, but it’s the holiday season and we can get everything here and there’s a huge selection of lights and decorations,” Henderson said. “It’s one-stop shopping – lights, a tree, decorations for the house – and that helps during this time of year.”
For big projects though, Benne’s husband, Rob, said he would shop family-owned businesses locally.
“When we’re planning our big projects, we work with the smaller businesses in town because they have great prices, too,” Rob Henderson said.
Another Saturday morning shopper, Devyn Schmidt who lives in Keystone, said she isn’t as aware of smaller stores.
“Lowe’s really makes their presence known, so I shop here,” Schmidt said. “I see their sign from the highway and I get their ads – I think I live far enough away from the smaller, more local shops that I just don’t hear that much about them.”
Some of Summit County’s small businesses, such as Breckenridge Building Center and Greer’s Appliance Center, see the competition as a reason to keep pushing forward.
“We can only improve from having this presence,” said Denny Rogstad, general manager of BBC. “We’re always staying on top of that competition – we know where their price points are and typically we can offer the same, or better prices.”
It’s volume purchase orders and inventory stocking that keeps the BBC and Greer’s competitive.
“We offer Summit County charm with great service from local people and a wide selection of materials,” Rogstad said.
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