Headley leaning on experience in challenging times
This is another in a series of articles on how local businesses are currently coping with the coronavirus and its related issues.
Want an idea of how Headley Hardware is approaching the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic? Drive past the Indianapolis Road business and check out the sign.
“Since 1954, when you’ve needed us we’ve been here,” reads the store’s ever-timely marquee.
Pointing to almost 70 years in business — 33 in which he’s been personally involved — owner Randall Jones said he looks to the past to guide decisions.
“What makes us able to look ahead is to understand what happened before,” Jones said.
He recals the store “burning to the ground and going to zero” in 2000, the economic downturn of 2007 that took years to turn around and even a street project right in front of the store last year that drove customer numbers down for months.
“(It) has helped inform me of what’s bad and what’s not,” Jones said.
One lesson from each of those instances was to reduce inventory — in small, barely noticeable ways. That has helped keep capital free and the business able to meet financial obligations, even if times get lean.
So, Jones is optimistic (concerned but not afraid) as he looks toward what is to come as the country confronts and ultimately starts its recovery from the coronavirus and the associated economic downturn.
“People have looked to us for fair prices and customer service for four generations,” Jones said. “We’re going to look out for your interests to take care of you for whatever bad happens this year.”
And Jones believes times will get hard this year. He’s already seen reasons for the business to tighten its belt.
For example, a number of employees have approached Jones about taking voluntary furloughs either because of their own age or risk factors or those of family members.
“All jobs will be held,” Jones emphasized.
The resulting staff shortage has forced the hardware to change its hours. The store is open now Monday through Saturday 7 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
However, there has yet to be a downturn in business, quite the opposite in fact. Customers are looking to the hardware for items in short supply in plenty of stores — paper goods, cleaning products and dust masks. (Though Jones emphasized that most of the masks you’ll find at a hardware are not the coveted N95 masks.)
As people see their way of life change either temporarily or permanently, Headley also has garden seed on the way, along with tomato cages and a new shipment of canning supplies already in stock.
Of course, there are also the reasons people need hardware stores every day — because things break or need to be upgraded. That doesn’t change whether the state is on lockdown or not.
“Over the next undetermined length of time, well pumps, sump pumps, water heaters and faucets are going to need to be replaced or worked on,” Jones said. “If we get three inches of rain tomorrow, someone is going to need a sump pump.
“We have to be here for when something happens.”
So Jones was happy on Monday when word came down from Gov. Eric Holcomb that hardware stores were among the businesses listed as essential, even with Indiana adopting the new “Stay at Home” rules.
Even as an essential business, though, there are limits. Jones isn’t sure if the state might, in a week or two, limit the number of people who can be in a store based on its size.
Additionally, Jones wants people to know that there are and will continue to be limits to the quantities of certain supplies — think toilet paper, disinfecting wipes and breathing masks — that one customer can buy.
But the goal is still to be in business, continuing to meet customer needs.
“Our goal is to stay open, stay healthy and to be here to meet the public’s need,” Jones said.
Jones is confident not only that Headley Hardware will do so, but the United States as well. He allows that the COVID-19 crisis looks bad, but mentions years such as 1776, 1861 and 1929 as other times things looked bad.
“America will pull through,” Jones said. “America has always pulled through because we pull together somehow.”
In looking at the nation as a whole, he invokes Franklin D. Roosevelt’s most famous quote, but not simply the bumper sticker version: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It’s the words that came before and after as well.
This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
And with an abundance of concern — but not fear — Jones believes Headley Hardware and the country are ready to move forward.