About seven years ago there was a ‘changing of the guard,’ so to speak, on Burton Square. A transaction took place, a switch was made, and a new owner was welcomed to town.
“I happened to go to Hill Hardware one day to buy plumbing parts,” says Dave Lamppert who has an industrial engineer background, “and there was a sign in the window advertising the business for sale. I thought that if we purchased the business I could get out of industry and run my own business.”
The we refers to Dave along with his wife Mary Anne, co-owner, both long time residents of Geauga County. After working 25 years in the steel container industry, steel service industry, plastics industry, and commercial HVAC industry, he says, “I was tired of working for other people and wanted to try something new.”
7000 Items Later….
That was in 2007, and since then they have added to their stock every week and now carry approximately 7000 different items providing customers with a wide range of products to choose from. In fact, if you’re like many of us, you will walk in with intentions of purchasing a specific tool or piece of hardware, but by the time you reach the location where that piece is, you have already picked up at least one other ‘goodie’ on your way! Maybe your eye caught one of the greeting cards or a cool kitchen gadget you just had to have. Perhaps you got completely distracted by the live steam toys, carbide cannons, or locally made gift items.
And, by the way, did you know they actually make keys? Yes – they do!
Though the bulk of their sales are in basic home repair items – hardware, tools, plumbing parts, electrical items, and painting supplies – it’s nice to know they carry some of these very unique products, many of which are locally made. Local supporting local…that’s the way it should be. Big chain carbon copy stores simply cannot compete with the personal customer service and individual flavor every small business in a community possesses. What would the world be like without the Hill Hardwares out there to distinguish one community from the next?
Customer Service, the REAL Thing
Customer service, as defined by Dave, means, “trying to get the customer what they need at a fair price. In the hardware business, this often means diplomatically explaining to the customer that what they were planning to do will not work and what they need to do if they want to do the job right. Sometimes, if the customer is looking for a very specialized item, it also means sending them to another store that has exactly what they need.”
Honesty while serving others. That’s what you’ll find when you do business with Dave. “My training is in engineering not entrepreneurship. I am pragmatic; all that matters is results. So I try to sell the customer what they need to get the job at hand done the best way they can.”
Advice from Personal Experience
Dave has a wealth of experience. He has a wide knowledge of home repairs and can share advice on your project as one who has personally encountered such things, quite unlike a newly hired “sales associate” who, especially in this day and age, may have no idea what you are talking about! I’m sure his love for antique machinery, a hobby he enjoys, certainly comes in handy at times, too.
The Ups and Downs
The best part about owning Hill Hardware is being his own boss, says Dave, and setting his own priorities of what needs to be done. “I also enjoy working with the public to help them get things done. Everybody that walks in the door at a hardware store has a problem, and I get to help them solve it.”
Unfortunately, fighting the huge amount of advertising by the “big box” stores has proven to be the most challenging thing. “They spend millions of dollars a year to convince people that they have to drive to another town and visit a 400,000 square foot warehouse store to buy a screwdriver. An entire generation of people have grown up with this, and they are often amazed that they can get what they need without leaving town.”
Dave does not plan on retiring for a long time, but when he does, “I would like to eventually pass this store along to someone else who wants to keep it going.” He would like see Burton remain the home of a real hardware store that’s just down the road a piece, not miles away.
Hill Hardware is a member of the Burton Chamber of Commerce, which runs the Burton Log Cabin, puts out the Burton tourist information brochure and provides summer flowers and holiday lighting in town. Mary Anne volunteers for the Geauga County Dog Warden’s office and they sponsor the adoptable dogs ad in the newspaper. They also donate merchandise to many fund raising events for local charities.
I encourage you to LIKE Hill Hardware’s Facebook page where you will not only see some of those 7000 items they carry, but you’ll also learn a great deal. Dave shares interesting history and information about some of the things he carries, for instance, this post on the history and uses of duct tape! It’s fascinating!
Whether you need to make a purchase or just need some advice, stop and see Dave in Burton at his old fashioned, always stocked hardware. Every visit is an experience in itself.