Bryant and Lawrence Hardware in Tilton, N.H., has been standing out for its service since 1859.»
The character of Bryant and Lawrence Hardware in Tilton, N.H., hasn’t changed much in 100 years—and that’s a key to its success. At a time when big-box stores, national and regional chains, and internet behemoths claim the lion’s share of sales of close to everything, the old-time store on Main Street is a friendly fixture and monument to simpler times, perched between hair and tanning salons, restaurants, a health food store and a vape shop, writes Roberta Baker in The Laconia Daily Sun.
It’s a feast of gadgets, hand tools, fittings and fasteners, fry pans, camp stoves, work gloves, wool socks and single-serving you-name-its—which can be tough to find in larger stores, except in bags that contain lots of them. Bryant and Lawrence, a member of The Hardware Connection Century Club, is also a purveyor of something that doesn’t change with time: personal service. That hasn’t changed since the True Value store started out as Philbrick and Hill in 1859.
“I like to engage my customers. I’ve learned to like people, even if they are unlikable,” said Bill Lawrence, who originally wanted to be a social worker. “You can buy one screw or one bolt or one nut if you want. I see it as a collection of everyday things,” said Lawrence, who also calls customers he knows and asks, “Is there anything I can get in for you?”
“From when I started, we’ve tried to keep the local flavor. We stock some things because people will come in once a year and buy them.” That includes walking sticks a regular customer whittled and asked him to sell.
At a time when brick and mortar stores are under siege from the internet, corporate competitors and the long-lived pandemic, Bryant and Lawrence Hardware is a marathon runner—and it profited during COVID-19—reaching sales peaks from 20 years ago by listening to customers and stocking plenty of seeds and tools for gardeners, and equipment for do-it-yourselfers with new time for home improvements, said Lawrence.
During uncertain periods, including COVID-19, small businesses have had to be flexible while relying on proven recipes. Some of their strategies are universal, and provide a crash course on how to survive. The formulas inevitably include heightened customer service that engenders something else that is valuable during unpredictable times: loyalty.
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