Four hardware and home improvement retailers were honored as 2022 Beacon Award winners during the Beacon Awards banquet held Friday, August 19 at the JW Marriott in Marco Island, Fla. The Beacon Awards are a premier national industry awards program developed by The Hardware Connection magazine and The Hardware Conference to recognize the “best of the best” independent hardware/home improvement retailers.
The 2022 Beacon Awards were sponsored by Ettore Products Company and Epicor Software Corp., with wholesaler sponsorship from Do it Best and Orgill.
The Beacon Awards, now in their tenth year, honored the 2022 Retail Beacon Award winners for each of the two participating wholesalers, plus two winners for Best New Store.
“These Beacon Award winners are an outstanding group of retailers. They all went above and beyond to find new ways to serve their communities,” stated Chris Jensen, editor/founder/principal of The Hardware Connection, the hardware industry’s leading digital publication.
What follows is an overview of the 2022 Beacon Award honorees:
Retail Beacon Award — Ivey’s Building Materials Center, Mansfield and Houghton, La.
With industry roots that date back to 1969, Mitch Johnson has spent five decades in the family-owned business co-founded by his father-in-law. His wife Pam remains active in the business and their son Josh is the general manager of the two successful Do it Best stores.
In the 1990s, Ivey’s got involved in outside sales to gain more pro business. That led to them serving contractors outside Mansfield. A big part of their business is shipping residential lumber packs to the Shreveport area where builders are most active. When they discovered the community of Haughton—10 miles outside Shreveport—had no hardware store, they began building a ground-up location that opened in 2014 to serve that more affluent demographic.
The Johnsons have always had a strong connection to their church that filters through to their own community and beyond. Mitch served as president of a boy’s home in Brazil for 10 years. He and Pam have traveled all over the world on mission trips with various organizations offering medical support and hunger relief or assisting with construction projects.
Retail Beacon Award — LaValley Building Supply, Newport, N.H.
LaValley Building Supply was founded in 1962 by Harold and Gerry LaValley, who are still active. Their son-in-law Larry Huot has been with the company since 1975 and serves as president, while the third generation of the family is now involved in the business. The company today consists of 12 locations in New Hampshire and Vermont that offer customers a one-stop shop for all of their building needs. The company also has a paint and decorating center, one of the largest eastern white pine sawmills in New England, a truss plant, a wall panel plant and a custom modular home division.
Reliable service and honest dealings have been the cornerstone of the company through three generations of the family business. The company is extremely active in the communities it serves, supporting various arts, youth and recreational programs as well as many charities.
The company’s focus on people flows into the treatment of its employees as well. With 600 employees, many with 20 to 40 years of service with the company, continued education and the freedom to make decisions brings a sense of ownership to employees and encourages exceptional engagement. They developed an extensive in-house training program for employees, while relying on Orgill’s merchandising and marketing programs to keep them successful.
Beacon Award for Best New Store Under 20,000 Square Feet — Hometown Hardware, Senoia, Ga.
Phil and Deanna Cheeves couldn’t find a convenient local place to buy a tarp in their small town, so they decided to build their own hardware store. They visited 25+ stores in four states to get design ideas on how to attract a diverse customer base. The ground-up store features a 8,300-square-foot sales floor and lots of profitable niches.
Since Phil and Deanna were new to retail, they relied on the expertise of Orgill in the beginning. Hometown Hardware opened in October 2018 with a grand opening held in May 2019. The store was an immediate hit with the community. Hometown Hardware received Orgill’s Summit Award for Outstanding Performance in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
One of the most important features of the store design is a carpeted area in the first 1,500 square feet of the store to create a welcoming place to shop. Phil and Deanna wanted a decompression zone that would deaden sound while encouraging people to stand and chat with their neighbors. Black shelves were used to make products pop and give the store a unique look.
Beacon Award for Best New Store Over 20,000 Square Feet — Vassar Building Center, Vassar, Mich.
Mike and Brenda MacKay are carrying on the tradition of a business that dates back to the 1950s and was purchased by her parents in the 1980s. The contractor yard needed major updates to make it more attractive to homeowners, women and families. Vassar Building Center served as the prototype store for Do it Best’s new store design program. The beautiful new 20,000-square-foot store that opened in October 2020 is twice the size of the old store and is drawing rave reviews from customers.
With the extra space, the MacKays have been able to greatly expand departments and bring in new categories. The kitchen and bath showroom tripled in size and dominant assortments of grills, workwear and boots are helping cement the store as a one-stop shop for the community.
An interesting twist is the fact the project’s design was headed up by Do it Best Store Development Manager Cherié Jacobs, who had once worked as a designer at Vassar right out of college.
The Hardware Conference, now in its 34th year, took place August 19-21 at the JW Marriott Marco Island Resort in Marco Island, Fla. It is the industry’s largest gathering of independent hardware retailers regardless of wholesaler affiliation.
Profiles of the 2022 Beacon Awards winners will be featured in the Sept/Oct 2022 issue. For more information on the Beacon Awards, go to www.thehardwareconnection.com.