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Hubbard’s Hardware continues one-on-one service

Waveland — Hubbard’s Hardware store is one of those family businesses that has a reputation for having anything needed in the hardware line and where customers are known and valued.

The Hubbard brothers, David and Richard, carry on the tradition of personal service that was begun by their parents in 1953. David runs the store and Richard is the buyer.

“It’s not always roses but it’s a good blend,” David said.

The two still run the place the old- fashioned way like they were taught by Dorothy and Manny Hubbard.

“We were taught to be a neighbor,” David says, “and anyone who works here has to have our attitude. We don’t let our employees help people until we’re sure they know what to do.”
He praises Robert Posten who’s been driving from Lumberton for 20 years to work at Hubbard’s and who efficiently marks freight as it comes in. “He’s amazing. I don’t know how he does it,” he said.

The Hubbards’ business advice can be summed up in three principles:

• have a knowledgeable staff

• know what your customers want

• know your customers

“We listen to customers and have what they need and we’ve been lucky with employees,” Richard said. “These young guys pick up quickly on things. If they don’t understand, they ask us.”

David says that having exactly what people need in the hardware line come from being in business many years. “If they come here, we can find it,” he said. “Also, we don’t think we have to sell in bulk. We’ll sell one 2 x 4 if that’s what a customer needs. Business is business.”

Hubbard’s currently has nine employees. Four of them are college students who began working there while still in high school. To allow the boys to continue working, the Hubbard brothers are accommodating the class schedules of three of those students who are attending Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

David Dorn, 18, is attending college in the honors program and said he wants to keep working there as long as he can. “I’ve learned a heck of a lot and feel fortunate to find a job like this,” he said. “I tell my friends that I never thought I’d know all of the plumbers in the county.”

David Hubbard says a lot of men in the area worked at the hardware store while going to school. One that came to mind was Waveland practicing attorney P.J. Mauffray.

Kim Orlin, David and Richard Hubbard’s niece, has been doing the store’s accounting for five years and says it’s a neat place to work. “I always thought so as a child and hung out here as much as I could,” she said.

The store began as Waveland Lumber Company in Bay St. Louis where it stayed for only one year. Because Manny Hubbard ran a sawmill, the new store had limited business hours. A young Ellis Cuevas, retired editor of The Sea Coast Echo, walked from school at St. Stanislaus every afternoon and opened the store at three o’clock. After a year, the store moved to Nicholson Avenue in Waveland where it has remained.

“Some people still call it Manny Hubbard’s Hardware,” David said. “My mom was very active in the store too and did all the posting and accounting by hand until she was 78.”

Even after she officially retired, Mrs. Hubbard came to the store often to check up on her boys. “She would say no, but that’s exactly what she was doing,” he added.

It was their mother who convinced David and Richard to start closing the store on Sundays. Changing the operation from seven days a week to six didn’t hurt business one bit, he says.

“That was in 1973, and we were afraid it would hurt business, but it got better,” he said. “We used to depend on Saturdays and Sundays because of all the weekenders and campers in the area but that’s all changed. After Hurricane Camille, we evolved into a Monday through Friday store.”

Hubbard’s still remains open on Saturdays and the growth of gaming on the Coast has seen many weekend homes become permanent homes. Business volume has grown as more people move into Hancock County with gaming and other industries. As for large chain stores that have opened nearby, Richard says Hubbard’s hasn’t seen any adverse effects in business.

“Everybody around here works together,” he said. “If they don’t have something, they’ll send customers to us, even the chains.”

They have experienced an increase in dealing with plumbers and electricians. The 2,900-square-foot building keeps back up stock in a warehouse behind the store. Each employee has the responsibility to keep an assigned section stocked and the stock is inventoried every week.

Although the store isn’t large, David says Hubbard’s won’t be moving to a new location. “People know where we are, and know we’ll have what they need,” he said.

Richard, who spends a lot of time on the computer ordering for the store, says he knows what’s in the place. “The trick to keeping the store well stocked is that I’m at the counter and hear people ask for things. I keep up with requests and know what to order,” he said. “Of course, the economy, rising prices and discontinued items have affected us like everyone else.”
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sked if he thinks the store will continue for generations to come, he answered, “There will always be someone out there who remembers what one-on-one service is even though it’s changing. I can’t see not having a store like this.”

Both the Hubbard brothers have seen other stores come and go, but Richard says it’s still not too risky to open a small business and that he would not discourage a young person from doing so.

“If you have it in your heart to help customers, you can still make it,” he said. “A knowledgeable person makes a difference. When people hit the front door, we ask to help them. They don’t have to look around for what they need. That makes a world of difference.”

He says, with a laugh, knowing what a customer wants can be tricky when a wife comes in with a not-so-clear description of something her husband needs to complete a project. It’s especially gratifying when the Hubbards can show a customer how to fix something or can tell them “to replace a 20¢ washer instead of the whole thing.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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