House-Hasson Helps Amish Family Open Ground-Up Store

Mervin Miller had thought about opening a hardware store for a while, but it seemed like too ambitious of a project to tackle. He was busy operating a sawmill business with his brother and being part of the Amish community in eastern Ohio.

Mervin knew another Amish fellow who sold hardware and bought from House-Hasson Hardware, and he had spoken very positively about the experience, so it got him thinking that maybe he should pursue the idea further.

“We talked with House-Hasson in the fall of 2011 and they came out and did a survey to see if there was a market for a store,” he says. “They convinced us our area could support another hardware store and that they could help us get everything started.”

House-Hasson got busy coming up with a store design for a ground-up store that incorporates unique signage, as well as developing the complete product assortment.

“Dave Helfenberger has been so good to us in getting the store up and running, and Dave Baumberger and our House-Hasson rep, Mike Brauchler, have helped me make critical decisions,” he says. “They are looking out for our needs.”

The new store features a 4,000-square-foot salesfloor along with a 1,600-square-foot space in the back that serves as a Gift & Variety store catering to the unique needs of the Amish community.

House-Hasson’s store set crew came in and got everything set up, and they did all the initial pricing as well. The store officially opened on December 27, 2012, with a grand opening celebrated April 19-20.

It’s a true family business, with Mervin’s wife Mary and son Andrew also helping out at the store. “Andrew is our backup. It’s been a good experience for him to get involved in this,” says Mervin.

There was a lot to worry about before the store opened, but Mervin says it was reassuring to know House-Hasson had his back. “The worst part was trying to get everything set up, but House-Hasson was such a big help there. They are a wonderful company to work with.”

So far the best-selling categories have been nuts and bolts and plumbing, with paint sales starting to pick up. “There’s so much to learn, but House-Hasson is so good with their product mix they offer that we feel we’re on the right path,” Mervin says.

About 60 percent of the customers are Amish and Saturdays are especially busy in the store. “We’ve had good feedback so far from customers. One guy said he heard a lot of good things about our pricing and liked the fact that it wasn’t too crammed,” he says.

In the back, the Gift & Variety section operates like a general store by carrying housewares, toys, canning supplies, cards, baby items, clocks, hats, clothing and other products that are in demand by Amish customers. Many of the items are hand-crafted and locally made.

“My goal is that people come in and we give them what they need, although we will also do special ordering for people,” Mervin says. “Not sure what our main niche will be, although we do have fencing supplies. If you have another niche then you become more of a destination store.”

In keeping with the Amish tradition to avoid using power from the public grid, they installed gas lights and also white daylights that capture the sunlight. Interestingly, Mervin uses the Cipher Lab for ordering, which he finds easy to use. “I’m working with Mike (Brauchler) on a word processor so we can eventually get on the Toolbox,” Mervin says.

The Millers have attended several dealer markets, where they were impressed by the friendly reception they received. “There are so many good people with House-Hasson. We found a lot of good buying specials at the shows, but we have to see what’s going to sell first,” Mervin points out.

To promote the store they intend to send out fliers and do advertising throughout the year, relying on House-Hasson’s expertise in that area. “We’re so appreciative of all the support we’ve received from the community. We’re getting new customers in all the time,” Mervin says.

The whole experience has made a believer out of Mary, who says, “We wouldn’t think about switching to another supplier. House-Hasson is so good about everything.”

Adds Mervin, “House-Hasson is the only wholesaler we looked at. They’re not trying to sell me stuff that won’t work and they try to help in every way they can.”