Rampstop Hardware & Supply Has Unique Niche with Boats

 

Most hardware retailers don’t have to worry about their customers literally floating away from them, but that’s the added challenge that faces Tim and Jacqueline Shocklee. Their business, Rampstop Hardware & Supply in Owensboro, Ky., services tugboats that float up and down the Ohio River.

“Tugboats have a need for everything that a home or a factory would need; they just float,” explains Jacqueline.

“Once a tugboat has gone down the river they’re out for us. We have to be very precise in how we take and fill orders so we’re not slowing them down,” says Tim, who adds that they have 17 points along the river where they can deliver. “Getting turned happens a lot to boats, and then we have to move fast to get to a new location. That’s just part of responding to everyday life on the river.”

The Shocklees took over a boat store from an uncle in 2005 and have been finding new ways to grow the business. In August 2006 they moved to a new location in Evansville, Ind. They soon moved to a 2,400-square-foot location in Owensboro because that worked better for them. Two years later they moved up to 7,000 square feet.

“Entrepreneurs find a need and fill it. I was in the contracting business, so being in the river business was foreign to me. It’s something different and it’s been an education,” explains Tim.

The latest development is an exciting foray into hardware. With House-Hasson’s help they opened a standalone hardware store in July as a second location. “We found a building that was empty and thought it had good traffic. There is no other store selling hardware on this side of town,” says Tim.

House-Hasson did a market study that demonstrated there was room for a hardware store in the area. “We were already buying from House-Hasson. We’ll stock anything that will sell,” says Jacqueline. “We got into paint, because customers were buying paint elsewhere and having it shipped to the boat store for us to deliver to them. We thought we might as well have the products in stock ourselves.”

About 5-10 percent of their boat sales come from hardware products, according to Tim. “Once you start servicing tugboats you have to expand your assortment. It’s a huge market that is still largely untapped. Getting them to see us as more than just a grocery store is the key.”

Everything non-grocery is now stored in the hardware store, which features 5,500 square feet of retail space plus a caged-in area for pipe and mulch. “We’re busting at the seams again,” says Jacqueline.

The Shocklees really enjoy doing business with House-Hasson. “They are very helpful. If you have questions they’re always there for you,” says Tim. “Our rep, Charlie White, tells us what we do and don’t need. You don’t have any clue when you first start out.”

They really appreciated all the support they received from House-Hasson in getting the new store up and running. “The guy who set the store, David Tanner, had a lot of good ideas. He could explain why he was doing something a certain way,” says Tim. “Taylor Hasson also came in and got involved with setting up the store. Martin West helped us with our POS system that is linked between our two stores and David Helfenberger was a big help in figuring out what to stock.” House-Hasson also assisted with their grand opening, which took place October 1.

“Our House-Hasson driver, Jim Branch, is great. He’s a guy who does whatever he can to help. We’ve gone and got stuff out of his truck ahead of time when we had a tugboat coming.”

They average 60 to 80 tugboat deliveries a month, supplying deck supplies to three large boat companies. “We fell into the grocery part and now trying to get our name out more on the hardware side. The decision makers for hardware items sit in an office, while the grocery buyers are on the boat. Although they have a budget, they are spending other people’s money,” says Tim.

They created a website to show what Rampstop Hardware has to offer and to make it easier for boat customers to order via phone, fax or email. They sell stoves, refrigerators and dishwashers to the boats and sell a lot of galvanized pipe fittings. “Yesterday we got six orders for the boat store and one was over $4,000. It included an air conditioner, lock box, pillows, wash cloths and ink cartridges,” Tim points out.

House-Hasson has helped them with their pricing, which is crucial since the store is in the middle of three big boxes. “We have to keep tweaking our prices. We’ve had multiple contractors come in and say we’re priced good on saw blades and drill bits. I’ll match a price if necessary,” says Tim, who plans to target contractors more aggressively.

“When we started going to shows we didn’t have the walk-in business. We got a lot of drop-ship orders. Now we have to constantly ask ourselves ‘what will sell?’ It’s a learning process,” says Tim.

They love attending the House-Hasson dealer markets. “I’m a relationship person. That’s what House-Hasson is like and that’s the type of company I want to do business with. I want to remain independent.”

Tim likes to learn from other successful entrepreneurs and he models his business philosophy from this quote from Zig Ziglar: “If you help enough people get what they want, eventually you’ll get what you need.”