In a retail landscape dominated by four-lane roads and big-box stores, some neighborhood businesses have survived by relying on the age-old tenets of fair pricing, quality service and product and community knowledge. By practicing these fundamentals, Mt. Pleasant Hardware Inc. has fended off its competition and continued to prosper, even in a down economy.
The store is located in the Mount Pleasant section of Providence, an established neighborhood where three-story tenement houses date back to the 1880s. Owner Marc Gillson knows the customer base and knows his trade. He should, because his store has been a fixture in the community for almost 90 years.
“My grandfather started it then handed over to my mother and uncle. After that my parents owned it,” he said of the business he dates to 1923.
The store is unique in that it offers a tremendous variety of goods, from electrical and lighting supplies and plumbing tools, to power tools, a garden shop and paint supplies. A bigger store might supply, for example, 50 of the same identical tool; at Mt. Pleasant Hardware, they carry 50 tools, but each one a little different than the next, each for a separate purpose. They specialize in variety.
They also provide window and screen repairs, glass cuts, fabricate keys and thread pipe. If they don’t do it, they will refer you to someone who can.
They stock everything, from the latest energy-efficient water heater to those iconic green, metal bins full of nails. “It’s not the best cost-effective use of my square footage, those nails sell for pennies,” he said, “but they are here because they’re history.”
Gillson is a firm believer that helping the customer is not only a nice thing to do, but it’s good business. If a customer wants a special item he doesn’t carry, he’ll find out where they can get the part by surfing the Internet while the patron waits. In other cases, he’ll call a manufacturer to find out where his customer can get the part. In those instances he doesn’t benefit from a sale, but firmly believes the customer will return because he and his staff have taken the time to help. It’s good service, it’s good business and it’s that simple.
His store might be a staple in the community, but Gillson isn’t one to restrict his options. Many of his patrons are repeat customers from the area, but others are dedicated to his service regardless of the distance. The store regularly delivers goods to Southern Rhode Island and Bristol County, Mass. He has supplied some companies with material, such as paint, for years. Again, he credits service for his success.