The Hardware Chain that Matt Built: The Nuts and Bolts of Renovating a Family Business
When Matt Woods joined his family business full time in 2011, he became the fourth-generation leader of an establishment that began in 1933. And while basic locks haven’t changed much in the last hundred years, it goes without saying – business has.
In only a few years, Matt had been named the North American Hardware Association’s 2015 Young Retailer of the Year for improving the sales floor and inventory and launching smart marketing tactics on radio and online. And that’s before the company doubled its number of locations in the fall of 2016. But how did this small shop turn into a regional family of stores and more in just a few short years?
If the Key Fits…Serendipitous Opportunities
What started as primarily a locksmith shop in OTR actually began evolving under the direction of Matt’s parents several years back. As more people returned to urban living, the Woods family realized they had an opportunity to carry more household and hardware items. No one else in OTR was there serving urban dwellers who don’t want to walk far to shop. The shift in offerings proved a success and when Matt joined the team, he and his parents decided to take the hardware aspect of the business to a new level.
By 2016, Matt and his family had started the process of acquiring some other local hardware stores, but weren’t sure how to execute the deal. It just so happened that Matt was completing his MBA at Xavier University during this time and saw an option to take a class on acquisitions. “I saw it was a class option and figured – since we’re going through an acquisition, I may as well learn what the heck I’m doing….”
Well, it just so happened that Dino Lucarelli was the professor teaching the class and as Matt says, “…the rest is history.” That’s because, coincidentally, Dino is not just a professor, but also a consultant who partners with companies on financial and organizational matters in a variety of roles, including capitalization and acquisitions.
Big Expansion, Big To-Do List
The year 2016 proved to be a year of big change for Acme Lock. They began the process of acquiring a local chain of four other local hardware stores and an internet company. The company to be bought, Small’s Hardware, had locations in Lockland, Cheviot, Harrison and Cincinnati’s Roselawn neighborhood. Matt was not only spearheading the acquisition, but also the process of rebranding Acme Lock as Woods Hardware to reflect the family’s larger holdings.
Dino helped with many challenges during the acquisition. He recalls that it took several months to run projections, approach banks and get loan financing to make the acquisition possible.
Matt remembers, “The biggest challenges were the bank and the other party. We thought it would be done in 3 months – it took a year. There were a lot of moving parts, so the bank had to be fully comfortable.” Combining the two companies was also no easy feat. While Acme was all digital, many of the records kept by Small’s Hardware, like their fixed assets list, were hand written. “Tangling the two worlds” as Matt put it, proved quite trying.
“The thing about Dino is that he’s been through this many times. Expectation levels were adjusted. He was very forthcoming. There were some points when we were about ready to pull the plug and he’d say ‘just take a step back.’” Together, they pushed through and the sale was finalized in the fall of 2016.
Woods Hardware Today
In early 2017, Woods Hardware re-opened its downtown location in the former Republicans Club building at 125 E. Ninth Street. After a $1.7 million renovation, it’s been transformed into an 8,000-square-foot, two-story, full-service hardware store with home wares, gardening, pet goods and more upstairs and mechanical and industrial goods downstairs. While it’s much larger than the last store, Matt never wants to go too big.
“We see an opportunity for small local,” explains Matt. He hopes to strike the perfect balance. The feel of a small, family-run shop with the benefits of a large company. Pricing that competes with big box stores, but familiar, helpful faces and a coffee bar in the corner that invites people to stay a while.
Unlocking the Future of Woods Hardware & Acme Lock
Matt’s sights are set on internet opportunities too. The Lockland location, the largest of all, houses their online division. Utilizing the company’s True Value partnership, Matt has been able to build an internet sales team poised to offer products that people are looking for online with competitive shipping rates.
In addition, the company is currently working on a virtual shopping experience. It allows shoppers to browse and shop as though they’re standing in the store, then receive the items via Amazon-Now-like capabilities. “Walk our store online and we’ll get it to you in 2 hours. That’s our goal for the end of the summer.” Matt also dreams of selling a part of each shop to its respective manager and expand the chain to Columbus and beyond.
With the zing of the key-cutting machine ringing behind him, Matt stands with one foot in each of two different worlds. Old bricks-and-mortar business meets a new way of thinking, a millennial marketer’s mind with an entrepreneurial spirit. It seems his family has laid the right foundation for Matt to build something big. What’s his next step? We can’t wait to see.