Carr Hardware, whose main branch is located in Pittsfield, Mass., was the 2017 “Indie” Award winner, presented by Independent We Stand. Each year, Independent We Stand helps consumers recognize the top small business in the country, whose owners go out of their way to give back to their communities, with the Independent Small Business of the Year award or “Indie” Award. With nearly 90 years of providing expert advice and quality service to customers, Carr Hardware demonstrated an unshakable commitment to community events and organizations.
Throughout the contest, Carr Hardware committed to donating its $5,000 cash award to a park revitalization project in Pittsfield, Mass. (Carr has four Berkshires locations in Massachusetts and two in northern Connecticut).
“Carr Hardware garnered support through its mission to serve customers and the community by choosing a pay-it-forward approach with the prize winnings,” said Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand. “The $5,000 cash prize will help pay for a splash pad at a community park. It’s that type of local involvement and dedication we see from our nominees each year across the country; this award helps us recognize and reinforce those efforts.”
Carr Hardware is a locally owned independent hardware, outdoor power and industrial supplier that serves homeowners, contractors, commercial customers, institutions and government agencies throughout the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut and surrounding areas of New York and Vermont.
In addition, Carr is a supplier for the Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium and one of the select vendors that hold a statewide industrial supply contract with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operations).
Carr offers more than 40,000 different products, including outdoor power equipment, paint, tools, hardware, electrical, plumbing, outdoor living, lawn and garden, and more.
Each Carr Hardware location offers years of specialty experience, allowing Carr to provide expert advice and quality service to their customers. This has been the foundation of their business since opening their doors more than 90 years ago.
Originally founded by Sam Carr in 1928, the company was purchased by the Raser family in 1962, and day-to-day operations are still handled by Marshall Raser and his son, Bart.
Outdoor Power Equipment magazine recently asked Bart Raser, vice president and co-owner of Carr Hardware, about the business.
OPE: How many employees do you have, and what are their roles?
Raser: Carr Hardware has more than 100 employees at six locations, all of which sell Stihl, Toro, Ariens and Husqvarna branded equipment. It has about a 50/50 split of selling associates and technical and operational team members. Most Carr Hardware employees attend Stihl University* and the dealer has at least two dedicated Stihl technicians at each location. Plus associates are well versed in other brands like Ariens, Toro and Husqvarna.
OPE: Do you market yourself online and/or via social media, and, if so, how do you approach your digital marketing initiatives?
Raser: We do a mix of digital advertising including online banner ads, Facebook ads, SEO, SEM plus we have our own website and each location has linked Stihl- and Ariens-branded websites.
OPE: What are the keys to your success?
Raser: Dedicated, well-trained associates that offer expertise and outstanding service. We service what we sell. We give back to our communities.
OPE: What are the biggest challenges that you face?
Raser: The biggest challenges we face are recruitment and change in market demographics. The uneven playing field of internet-only players, who have little overhead and rarely charge sales tax, also presents a challenge.
OPE: What are your plans for the future?
Raser: We are committed to ongoing training, and we welcome new technologies in both product and infrastructure. We are always on the lookout for interesting acquisitions.
OPE: What advice do you have for other OPE dealers?
Raser: Retain your good employees, keep up with their training, and offer your customers the best service in town. Do things your competitors don’t do and/or don’t do well.
* Stihl University is an optional half-day training class designed for dealer sales staff. The Stihl Inc. sales and marketing team develops a presentation package that contains pertinent information for the upcoming year – mainly new product information and marketing campaigns. Each branch or distributor can personalize this material and is responsible for training their respective dealers. Stihl University provides convenient and entertaining training locations and gives dealer employees the opportunity to select their preferred choice throughout each branch and distributor territory.