Labor Day: Closing Shop

Last Load of Lumber

I submitted this essay as a letter to the editor back in June.  It did not make print.  I have kept it in draft waiting for a time (and space with all those Inspirations on Romans) to post it.  Labor Day seems fitting.  In fairness to Home Depot, toward whom I make some critical comments, they are following the same business model that other big box store have been using for the past couple of decades.  I do shop there occasionally.  During more recent excursions, I have noticed that the sales associates have been more visible and friendly.  I suspect that with the construction bubble bursting, they were part of the splatter.  Now, they realize that they need their customers back and are making some attempt at this.  A risk in a dog-eat-dog commerce mode is that someday you too shall be eaten.  Dear Editor,

I made my last run to Eastern Building Supply a couple of days ago.  A few days before that, I went by to start stocking up on lumber for my next project.  On that day, I learned that the Moorefield store would be closing soon, and their inventory would be consolidated in the Romney location.  The construction business has been slow for a couple of years, so I was not surprised.  I was disheartened to see not only a business end, but also the employees let go.  I have been coming to Eastern Building Supply for the 18 years that I have been working on our home in Hardy County.

This is not the first time that a lumber-hardware store, which I frequented, closed shop.  When we lived in Alexandria and were “weekenders” here, I would load up my truck on Friday afternoons at Hechinger Hardware on Duke Street.  This warehouse style store was poorly lit, but was full of retired construction workers who could look at any broken part I brought in, tell me what is was and how to fix it. Then Home Depot opened 2 stores within a few miles.

Irreplaceable Hat

These big-box stores dazzled with lights and cheerful sales people who appeared to be stationed along every aisle.  Their enthusiasm fueled the DYI industry, until Hechinger sold out their inventory, including a blue hat, which my wife cringes at every time I put it on to work around the place.  Home Depot seemed like a great advancement in their business plan, until a few years later when the owners sold the corporation, the sales associates became hard to find, and I realized that there was little knowledge behind the greetings, when I asked where I could find some widget.  I found a lot more warped than straight lumber too.  That was about the time I started hearing “Home Despot” jokes.

After we moved to Hardy County, I became a more regular customer at Eastern.  After a while, the guys in the yard recognized my truck when I drove in and would ask, “What’s your wife got you building today?”   When I brought in something broken, they would tell me what to do with it.   As the economy reduced their business, I thought up more projects to work on, hoping to keep a little cash flowing for them.  I guess I did not have enough woodsheds to build, and now I will have to head up the road to complete this summer’s deck-rail replacement project.

The Latest Project

I will now drive through town to 84 Lumber, or stop at the Tractor Supply Store, Hardman’s Hardware, or Southern States for most of what I am looking for.  I could go to the Eastern location in Romney or Central Tie and Lumber in Petersburg, but that would double my travel distance from Baker.  Companies come and go.  What I will miss is the relationships, which I had established at Eastern.  Dave has written in his Unbased Opinions about our faltering economy.  Until we focus creating a value economy, we will bump along, losing companies along the way.  We need to value quality over quantity (inexpensive stuff).  We need to value accumulated knowledge of staff over the latest marketing techniques.  We need to value the relationships of employees and customers over quick sales.  Otherwise, our global economy will be full of despots and dictators.

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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8 Responses to Labor Day: Closing Shop

  1. The Vicar says:

    When I worked for a small coffee roaster, back in the day when Starbucks was just a local coffee roaster in Seattle, we would talk about how to grow the business in Northern California. We dreamed of getting into the grocery stores and expanding our base of business. When talk of Price Club (Costco) came up, the owner explained that many small companies were forced into bankruptcy when the started to sell more product than they ever imagined and losing money in the process.

    I agree with you Hermit that commerce drive by cost looses relationship. Perhaps the loss of relationship is the ultimate definition of unsuitability.

  2. The Vicar says:

    I believe that while Facebook is the darling of the capitalist world for bringing together 500 million + people into “community”, Facebook is an unstable business model. Consider that marketers a drooling at the prospects of targeted advertising based on demographic information provided by Facebook, based on information culled from Facebook pages, the content which is provided by people posting information of who they would like you to think they are. Facebook has the potential to be a shell game of gigantic proportions.

  3. A little late in the response, but I couldn’t agree more. There are no really local Hardware/Lumber Yard stores in this area, so I must shop at Big Blue. I will admit the service is very good, associates are relatively easy to find, and most know where things are. In addition they give an additional discount for Military vets, and they will take anything back as long as the package is ok. Can’t say anything like this happens at Home Depot. Associates are not to be found, and usually there is a restocking fee.

    Just returned from Newport, Oregon. A good coffee shop on every corner, even more in the middle of the block. Multiple types and flavors, great flavors and good service. Nothing like that at Starbucks.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Listening to the political speaches and reading the business reports, I think one our economic problems is that we keep looking for nationa/global solutions. Big solutions tend to lose sight of the local nature of most economies, and we the customer feel more and more distanced from the whole process, except to pay for it. Wait a second, that receipt has my special code number that I can use to fill out the on-line survey to give my “5” to every satisfaction questions. Gotta go. No time for personal communications. Let me put my numbers in…

  4. Felicia says:

    This reminds me of the movie “You’ve Got Mail” where “Fox Books” (a big-box store) moved in and a little “Shop Around the Corner” eventually had to close down. The new big-box store was blamed for the close of the neighborhood business, but you are right in connecting the close of neighborhood stores with the demand of the consumer. Consumers seem to want cheap, fast service. And that’s exactly what we get – cheap & fast. Not knowledgeable, nor relational, and we really have to figure out how to do it ourselves.

    I appreciate your desire to see those in your neighborhood flourish. It is a lost loyalty. Just yesterday I received a book about how our purchases impact the local and global economy – The Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones. It was eye opening in many respects. They say that the average American household spends $18,000 a year on products and services. If we were more strategic in how we spend we could make a considerable impact. It sounds like a principle you already live by, now if we could just get the masses to follow suit.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Yes, and how much of that $18k do we discard or forget aout within a year. If we paid a little more for quality products and service relationships on items that we would use over time, we might begin to build sustainable economies and communities.

      • Felicia says:

        You are absolutely right. Our purchases might be a little more thoughtful, with not only ourselves in mind. Great article, it’s applies not only to where you are, but the world.

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