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Providing a Mayberry Experience

mayberry experience

Have you received your April 2018 copy of Longview Neighbors Magazine yet? We are excited to be featured on the cover and in an article starting on page 4. If you know us and if you’ve shopped at our store, you know the passion we have for this community, and the passion we have for providing excellent customer service. We’d love to hear your comments next time you are in the store.

” Ken and Suzy Turner invite shoppers to visit their hardware store if they want to find out what a “Mayberry experience” looks like, feels like – and even sounds like — in Longview, Texas.

“I think there’s a yearning in today’s society for the Mayberry experience — the Opie and Andy experience — and that’s what we wanted to try to capture with Hometown Hardware,” Ken said.

He and Suzy agree that they want customers to have “that nostalgic feeling of hometown” when they visit their store just off Gilmer Road, at 1341 Heritage Blvd.

Ken said they’ve tried to create that experience “by greeting people at the door, by helping them, by laughing with them, by talking with them about what they’ve done today or what they’re doing, or ‘How are the kids? How’s your son? Isn’t he going to Texas A&M?’”

He said it may sound “a little hokie, but people like hokie.”

Suzy added a different dimension to “hometown.”

“I was born here, my mother was born here, my grandmother was born here,” she said. “That’ s a reason it’s Hometown Hardware. You don’t get more hometown than me.”

She elaborated, pointing out that she was a Smith, her mother was a Lee and her grandmother’s maiden name was Reel.

“That’s where Reel Road came from,” she said. “That was our farm. It was on Reel Road, and when they cut the road through there, they named it Reel.”

Customer service has been a priority since Hometown Hardware opened 11 years ago, Suzy said.

“Customer service is a priority because I think that’s lost in society today,” she said. “You don’t have to hunt for someone to help you because we’re going to meet you at the door, and we’re happy to help you.”

When the door chimes, a greeting follows. Most of the time, it’s an offer to help. For some special, frequent customers, it may be a simple, “Hey,” followed by an offer to help them find a hardware item or a home décor item from the store’s gift shop.

Both owners give credit to the store’s mature employees.

“One of the things that makes Hometown Hardware different is that we have a lot of people up there who are older and have experienced stuff in their lives,” Ken said. “I’ve learned from my employees.”

He laughs when he comments that his “target employee is drawing Social Security.”

“We’re all friends and co-workers,” Suzy said.

Their hometown focus also extends into the community.

The business owners have contributed to many community programs, projects and events. They are longtime supporters of the Spring Hill Education Foundation. Suzy has been a Longview Partners in Prevention mentor at Spring Hill High School for about 15 years. And they are active members of Woodland Christian Church and have served in many leadership positions at the church.

Both of their children are Spring Hill High School graduates. Maggie is a registered nurse at CHRISTUS Good Shepherd Medical Center and Will is a software programmer in Dallas.

As a hardware store owner, Ken said, this is his third career.

His first career was in the newspaper business. Ken said he grew up in the business, retiring at 23 years old after spending 21 years in the business. His dad owned weekly newspapers – Littlefield and Olton in West Texas during Ken’s early days and later Atlanta, Linden, Carthage and other towns in East Texas.

Ken earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Baylor University in 1979. As a CPA, he went to work in 1980 for a big accounting firm in Dallas. In two years – “after I had all of Dallas I wanted” – he moved to Longview and joined the staff of a CPA firm in Kilgore. Seven years later, he went to work for a Marshall law firm. He still works for the law firm one day a week.

After he and Suzy married in 1989, Ken said, they started renovating houses.

Sometimes, someone will mention that the Turners were a husband-wife remodeling team like Chip and Joanna Gaines, who have gained fame with their “Fixer Upper” series on HGTV.

“We were fixer uppers before Chip and Joanna got out of college,” Ken said, adding that a major difference is that the Gaines got a television show and the Turners did not.

They remodeled about eight homes over a 15-year period. Suzy also followed her father and grandfather as a home builder.

Ken said he thought he knew a lot about hardware when they opened the store in 2007.

“Turned out, I wasn’t near as smart as I thought I was,” he said.

Some of the best advice he got early during his business ownership came from someone who said, “Listen to your customers.” Find out about their projects, Ken said he was advised. Get details about what they’re doing.

“You will pick up information and you will help the next customer based on what you learned from the last customer,” Ken said he was told. “I’ve done that for 11 years now. I’m not an expert on anything, but I have some knowledge about a lot of different areas. A lot of that goes back to listening to my customers.”

When talking about what separates Hometown Hardware from the “big box” retail stores, Ken talked about greeting, helping and talking.

“You walk in, you’re going to get expert help,” he said. “We’ll leave you alone if you make us, but if you don’t, we’ll be glad to talk to you about the Spring Hill game, or the Pine Tree game, or the presidential election, or the Olympics last night, or whatever’s going on.”

Suzy talked about how the Walmart Neighborhood Market helped Hometown Hardware when it was built across the street.

“We had been here for nine years and there were still people who didn’t know we were here,” she said. “And then, Walmart puts in across the street and in 24 hours, people know where Walmart is. So, people come over here after going to Walmart, ‘Well, when did y’all open?’ ‘Nine years ago.’”

When some customers have out-of-town visitors, Ken said, they will bring them to Hometown Hardware – “You’ve got to see our hardware store.”

“Well, that makes Suzy and I feel great because we’re accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish,” he said. “We wanted to be that local, hokie-experience store.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t make money. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. It doesn’t mean you can’t be an effective part of society. It does mean the store is different than the big box experience.”

Simply, Ken said, he and Suzy want to be nice to people and make them feel like they’re home.

“That,” he said, “is what Hometown Hardware is about.”

 

Source: Longview Neighbors Magazine April 2018

Author: Jim Hardin