Headley Hardware earns double dose of notoriety

Sunday, November 27, 2016
Banner Graphic/ERIC BERNSEE In a recent message on its Indianapolis Road marquee sign, Headley Hardware tells of its inclusion in Popular Mechanics’ list of America’s Best Hardware Stores.

After 62 years in business and in its fourth generation of family operation, it wouldn’t seem like there’s much more to prove for Greencastle’s Headley Hardware.

But the nuts and bolts of all that is this: The hits just keep on coming.

For example, Headley’s being characterized by Popular Mechanics magazine in its November issue as one of “America’s Best Hardware Stores.”

Banner Graphic/Eric Bernsee More paint goes out the door at one register as a rental agreement is being put in place at another on a typical morning at Greencastle’s Headley Hardware, recently dubbed by a national magazine as one of “America’s Best Hardware Stores.”

And after seven times finishing second in the nation among 4,400 Do it Best hardware stores in single-store purchase of Valspar paint, Headley Hardware moved to the head of the class in 2016, becoming No. 1 in the country with a purchase amount of $230,510.

What really makes the difference at Headley Hardware is easy, boss Randall Jones will tell you: “It’s all about selection and customer service.”

“Grandpa always said,” Jones confided, “‘Don’t ever worry about the number of cars in the parking lot; make sure the store is full.’”

Courtesy photo Greg Bennett and Do it Best President Dan Star display Headley Hardware’s Valspar Paint purchase award at the Fall Do it Best show.

And full it is. There’s some $700,000 worth of inventory on hand right now to have the right stuff when people need it, be it ice melt, furnace filters, coffee filters or ballcock.

Call it convenience.

“I can’t guarantee you can turn left out of our parking lot,” Jones smiles of his Indianapolis Road location, “and sometimes there’s no place to park unless you park in the grass, but other than that I think it’s a pretty good place to shop.”

And so apparently does free-lance writer Tom Chiarella, the retired DePauw University professor who penned the Headley portion of the “America’s Best Hardware Stores” spread.

“I come to Headley’s for two things: Answers and eye contact,” he wrote. “I gain an edge by coming in, by seeking out the knowledge, the problem-solving, the patience, of the people who work there. These guys don’t just mix paint and rebuild screen doors, they listen, visualize, sketch stuff out.

“These guys don’t sell as much as they work to discover what you need and what you should do about it,” Chiarella continued. “They give answers. They just give them away. They look you in the eye all the while, and let you charge on the strength of your name.”

Randall Jones, wife Jamie Jones or her father Jim Headley couldn’t have said it any better.

“My mantra is ‘We care,’” Jones assured. “You’re coming here because something busted, and we’re trying to make your day easier.”

Sometimes a Headley associate will even go home with you to observe the problem. Or draw you a diagram.

Contractors, Jones said, come from five counties to buy what they need at what the Do it Best representative calls “the most pro-active store in his area.”

All that after a tragic fire in 2000 that threatened to bring the hardware empire to an end.

“What did we do differently after the fire?” Jones asks. “Nothing. We had fewer customers; we just took care of them. It was eight years after the fire before sales grew to more than they were before the fire.”

It wasn’t easy. But persistence paid off.

“It’s about adaptability, flexibility, seeking your own niches out,” Jones reasoned. “We’ve done all those things.”

Now the store is “pushing 500 customers a day,” he said.

Plumbing and all its fixings remains Headley’s biggest department but paint is right behind it.

For seven years Headley’s routinely came in second nationally in Valspar Paint purchases behind Johnson Brothers of Miles City, Mont., an enterprise that pulls in its clientele over a 150-mile area with a post office, grocery store, buffalo herd, furniture and appliance store, lumber yard and an Arby’s on site in a sprawling operation that Jones said is the only place to shop in a couple of counties.

“Basically,” Jones said, “they’ve got everything and Valspar Paint.”

Yet Headley -- with a demographic of probably 20 miles in any direction -- beat them by $12,000 this time.

“Purchases of $230,510 is a lot of paint,” Jones reasoned. “It’s incredible. We have the factories and the university here to help us out.”

The paint quality is a plus, he says, along with the availability of two complete color match stations.

“Nobody has two,” Jones said, stressing such reinvestment into the store to make sure Headley’s has what the customer needs.

“If we have to spend 30 minutes for a 50-cent bolt, we do it,” he continued. “The only reason for somebody to work here is to make somebody’s life better.

“No one appreciates living here and doing business here more than I do,” added Jones, who said his family has been here since 1822.

Keeping ahead of the game is another plus for Headley, like a recent lightbulb changeover from the incandescent bulbs. Or changes in technology.

“We started with paper and pencil here,” Jones said. “Our first computer system cost us $45,000 but it paid for itself in 18 months.”

Through it all, Jones knows accolades like the Popular Mechanics notoriety and the Valspar Paint award are all because customers trust his store and what it offers in product and convenience.

“We’re nothing without the public,” Jones said. “Crown and DePauw can only come here so many times a day. It’s the public that drives what we do.”

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  • Where was the original Headley hardware located? Was it on the square?

    -- Posted by donantonioelsabio on Mon, Nov 28, 2016, at 9:46 PM
  • It was on East Washington Street where the Old National Bank parking lot is now. The Voncastle Theater was East of Headley's, then George's Pizza was on the corner of Washington & Vine.

    -- Posted by Ben Dover on Tue, Nov 29, 2016, at 8:06 AM
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