Weston Jacobs was scrolling through his Facebook newsfeed when he learned that Weakley-Watson Hardware was closing after 140 years of business. It had been years since Weston had lived in Brownwood, Texas, but anytime he went home, he stopped in the store. The news upset him, but it wasn’t until speaking with his father, Tim Jacobs, that Weston decided to do something about it.
“My dad is a small business owner, running an independent pharmacy in town,” Weston says. “He was so upset when he learned about the store closing. After some research, he determined the viability of keeping Weakley-Watson alive was huge. My entire life he told me that if there was ever a chance to be my own boss and run a business, I should go for it, so I jumped in to help with this new opportunity.”
For Weston, co-owning and operating the store was both exciting and scary. He had been working and living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the past two years, but he had been away from town for about 10. Yet Weston and his wife Emily decided to pack up and move to Brownwood to be co-owners of the business with his father and his mother Kerri.
“Taking over Weakley-Watson Hardware is big shoes to fill, but the store has such a great reputation, and I wanted my reputation to be a part of that,” Weston says. “I have nothing but respect and praise for the Blagg family. Mike Blagg was excited for our interest in buying the store, but was very calculated on what he did.”
When the Jacobs family approached Blagg about purchasing his family business, Blagg wanted to make sure that they would continue the brand and not turn it into some corporate enterprise, Weston says.
“Mike and his brothers were very thoughtful in deciding what they wanted to do and if they could see us continue running the store,” Weston says. “There was an opportunity to extend their legacy, and so we came to an agreement and purchased the business.”
A Business in Transition
Weston and Emily tied up their lives in Dallas and returned to Brownwood, preparing for the next chapter. Blagg stayed in the store with Weston, Emily, Tim and Kerri, for the first few weeks, providing training and offering a hardware career’s worth of tips to Weston, he says.
“On Mike’s last day in the store, he reminded me that he might not be in the store, but I could call him anytime and ask for help if I need it,” Weston says. “He’s returned to the store as a customer a few times even. He cares about this store and wants to see us succeed.”
In addition to keeping the store open for its loyal customers, the transition to new management allowed all the employees to keep their jobs as well.
“We kept all of the employees of the store here because they are what make this business great,” Weston says. “Most of these folks have been here longer than I’ve been alive. They all have great knowledge on the store and home improvement advice to offer any customer that needs it.”
Although it was hard for the team to say goodbye to Mike and the rest of the Blagg family, Weston says the employees were happy to see the store remain a fixture in the community.
The Jacobs have been running Weakley-Watson for the past few weeks. Weston says they are excited to continue the legacy, but they are looking to update and grow the business even more.
“There is a lot of change going on,” Weston says. “We’ve switched co-ops and we’re opening up new product lines. We’re going to find more of what the customer wants to buy, instead of what we want to sell them. We’ll also update the face of the building, and we’re adding a garden center as well.”
While the Blagg family didn’t originally see the store continuing, they decided to sell when they believed it was the right fit. Weston says the decision to be open to a potential new owner is important for all retailers in order to keep longstanding, independent stores alive.
“In a big-box world, it’s hard to feel like you have a place and people want the service you can provide,” Weston says. “I encourage retailers not to let a legacy die just because they’re afraid of changes from new ownership. The store becomes a part of you after many years and it is tough to see changes, but if you find someone you trust and they are eager to keep it alive, don’t rule new ownership out. There is a generation ready to step up.”