Sloan Family Expands to Third Store

The customer service from House-Hasson is great. You can call up the owner of the company and talk to him or to Taylor Hasson. It’s a family business just like ours

If House-Hasson Hardware had such a thing as a Bonus Buy Breakfast back when the company started in 1906 you can bet a member of the Sloan family would have been in attendance. They have been loyal customers of the company that long.

The Sloan family is one of House-Hasson’s oldest accounts, getting its start as a general merchandiser just after the Civil War and with roots in hardware retailing that date back to 1901. Bill Sloan’s father opened a hardware store in Madisonville, Tenn., in the 1940s that is now known as Sloan Center, and Bill continues to work 60-hour weeks running that operation.

A second store in Vonore, Tenn., was purchased in 1993. Sloan’s of Vonore is a one-stop shop offering a full 6,000-square-foot hardware store in addition to grocery, fuel and convenience items. Bill’s son, T.K., oversees that store, which made its big expansion into hardware in 2004.

Although the Sloan family business has been thriving, Bill knows you can’t afford to pass up opportunities that come along. When he learned of a store available in nearby Loudon, Tenn., he decided to take the plunge and add a third location.

They took over the store, renamed Sloan’s Village Home Center, on January 1, 2012, and quickly set about making major changes. Sloan’s daughter, Whitney Grubb, who has been keeping the company’s books for about 15 years, has taken the reins as manager of the new store, working hand in hand with her father and brother to get the store running to their satisfaction.

Tellico Village is a planned retirement community in Loudon that was developed by Cooper Industries around Tellico Lake beginning in 1985. Cooper Industries felt the community needed a hardware store to serve the residents, so it opened one up about 20 years ago. Tellico Village is pretty well built out now with about 7,200 residents, so Sloan’s Village Home Center should have no problems attracting customers to a revitalized store.

“Opening up a full-service hardware store is a great opportunity in that area,” comments Don Hasson. “The Sloans are such good people, and T.K. and Whitney take after their dad with  strong values and work ethic.”

The Sloans know hardware retailing, but they also are smart enough to know when to look outside for help. The first call is always to House-Hasson and their long-time sales rep, Art Jackson.

“We started talking about buying the store last November and had several meetings with Art Jackson and David Helfenberger,” Whitney explains. “House-Hasson was here with a reset crew the day we took over. The reset crew was wonderful.”

The 25,000-square-foot store includes a Bass Pro Shops and a full garden center. “We have LBM here, which we’ve never had before and the garden center is also new to us,” says Whitney, who adds that they retained all the old employees including the general manager who had been there since the store was built.

The Vonore store does a booming sporting goods business with a Bass Pro Shop, so the manager there helped them set up the Bass Pro Shop in the new store, according to Whitney. A strong assortment of fishing supplies is stocked along with live bait, which should be well-received with a lot of lake properties nearby.

The Sloans feel comfortable taking on the risk of a third store, since they know their wholesale supplier has their back. “The customer service from House-Hasson is very good. You can call up the owner of the company and talk to him or to Taylor Hasson. It’s a family business just like ours,” says Whitney. “We love our salesman, Art Jackson, who we view as part of the family.”

The family finds it beneficial to attend all the House-Hasson dealer markets. “I always enjoy attending the shows and especially enjoy going to Opryland,” Whitney says. “It’s good to see the new lines of products and talk to other dealers.”

Bill and T.K. handle the pricing for the stores, largely following House-Hasson’s lead but adjusting where necessary. Customers can’t miss the large banner signs in Sloan’s Village Home Center touting the everyday low prices. Years of experience have taught the Sloans that a successful hardware business depends on having what the customer needs at a fair price and offering outstanding customer service. “We’ve received a lot of positive comments from customers so far,” says Whitney.

She started working in the business at age 11, working right up until she went away to college. “I later taught for four years but was always doing work for the stores,” she says.

That tradition of pitching in to help the business is getting passed along to the next generation. Whitney’s 12-year-old son, Will, likes to cut boxes and he helps put away merchandise, while 10-year-old daughter, Julia, likes to cashier, taking after her 15-year-old sister who has been a cashier at the Madisonville store for three years. T.K’s son, Tafton, also works at the store.

The kids are literally immersed in the store environment on a daily basis, since Whitney homeschools Will, Julia and Russ along with her nephew Tafton  in a backroom area of the store that has been repurposed for learning activities. “We pick the curriculum and have hired a tutor to oversee everything. It’s a great way to spend quality time with the kids while still working in the store,” she says.

If the kids pay close attention, they will learn everything there is to know about hardware retailing. And then you can watch as the fifth generation of Sloans makes their mark in the industry.

 

Cutline:

The team at Sloan’s Village Home Center, including the home-schooled helpers, consists of front row, left to right: Joy Bunch, Russ Grubb and Dawn DeVaney. Back row, left to right: Laura Louden, Gail Hope, Whitney Grubb, Kayson Sloan, Tafton Sloan, T.K. Sloan, Julia Grubb and Will Grubb.

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