an add-on to a warehouse absolutely busting at the seams in both demand and products.

— A business acquisition approximately 525 miles from Prichard is paying big dividends in the small, Wayne County town.

House-Hasson Hardware broke ground Friday morning on a $2-million, 100,000-square-foot addition to its Prichard warehouse. Leaders at the company based in Knoxville, Tenn., joined government officials in applauding the expansion as it will add 25 jobs and help the business better serve its customers.

Don Hasson, president of House-Hasson, credited the expansion to his company’s September 2009 purchase of a bankrupt hardware wholesaler in Birmingham, Ala. It nearly doubled House-Hasson’s customer base, forcing the company to realign its Knoxville warehouse to serve an influx of southern business.

That left Prichard to supply mid-Atlantic and northern customers, including many previously served by Knoxville.

Beverly Perry, vice president of sales and merchandising, said Friday’s groundbreaking marks “an add-on to a warehouse absolutely busting at the seams in both demand and products.”

“We’re very limited, right now, as to what products we can contain for inventory here,” she said.

House-Hasson, founded in 1906, is a wholesale distributor of hardware, plumbing, appliances and building products. Perry said it acts as the middle man between manufacturers and independent retailers, such as Bowling Feed & Farm in Catlettsburg, Ky.; Hatfield Grocery in Fort Gay; General Building Supply in Huntington; Kenova Box; and Kenny Queen Hardware.

House-Hasson arrived in the Tri-State about three and a half years ago with its purchase of Persinger Supply Co. The company’s president was impressed with its facility and quality salesmen.

“It’s really become a very integral and integrated part of our organization,” Hasson said. “They have great people here, who were really adaptive to change.”

The ongoing expansion marks House-Hasson’s first opportunity to increase employment at the Prichard site. Its number of jobs will rise from 50 to 75, with officials hoping to complete the hiring process prior to opening the expanded warehouse in January 2011.

Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, hopes adding 25 jobs will breed enthusiasm within a sputtering economy. He recognizes it’s a limited number of jobs, but he finds encouragement in a company choosing to increase employment by 50 percent.

“That is extraordinary. We’re not seeing that level of growth virtually anywhere,” he said. “Perhaps bringing that level of motivation (to our communities) is more important than the numbers, because it shows that if you overcome fear (of the economy) and you’re willing to work hard, then you can make something happen.”

Hasson said his company will stop at hiring 25 additional employees for “right now.” Those words represent a measure of optimism in the president’s voice, as he recognizes that the Birmingham acquisition is what’s allowing his company to hire more employees in a recession.

Hasson believes an upswing in the national economy and housing market will fuel additional business.

“Once that happens, there will be more people that we’ll add here,” he said. “That rising tide is going to lift our boat.”

House-Hasson also has been able to grow as other wholesalers go out of business. For instance, Hasson says there were 500 hardware wholesalers at his birth. Today, 25 remain. He blamed buyouts, weak balance sheets and a general resistance to embracing technology.

House-Hasson has battled against those trends, as its president said the company strives to grow, keep track of its finances and remain at technology’s leading edge. He holds the paperless Prichard warehouse as a perfect example.

The Prichard project will expand its warehouse to 300,000 square feet. It will feature added truck dock areas and improvements to the heating system.

House-Hasson serves 17 states, the Caribbean basin and several foreign countries, and is approaching $200 million in annual sales.

Source: CURTIS JOHNSON-The Herald-Dispatch