Berger Hardware, Hawthorne, New York, and Port Chester, New York
When Aimee Nichols was 22 years old, her father, Mark Rubeo, purchased Berger Hardware from a family friend. Soon after, Nichols started working at the store, and within a year joined her father and brother, Chris Rubeo, as an owner.
Within her first year of ownership, Nichols made significant improvements to the business. She implemented an automated ordering and inventory control process that has improved inventory accuracy immensely. She also added a special order system and trained her employees to start ordering items for customers that aren’t available in the store. Additionally, Nichols added several services, including screen repair, soil testing and propane refilling, to make Berger Hardware a one-stop shop for many home improvement needs.
After owning the store for a year and a half, Nichols decided to update the look and feel of the store. She and her team worked with their cooperative, True Value Co., to come up with a new store layout, and moved all departments. She also purchased new fixtures, merchandising materials and interior and exterior signage, and also updated all product assortments.
Once the remodel was completed, Nichols took the next big step in her career by adding a second store. In 2012 she purchased a local hardware store in Port Chester, New York. She immediately found ways to improve operational efficiency. She also hired new staff and added a service center, which is similar to what she had created in the first store.
Upon purchasing the Port Chester location, the goal was to increase profitability. Nichols and her team accomplished that goal within one year. Both sales volume and the number of customers coming into the store have increased significantly.
Nichols has also implemented a marketing plan – which includes circulars, direct mail, an increased advertising budget, social media, store events and email marketing – that has also contributed to the company’s success.
Nichols’s email communication with customers was most successful in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy hit. For two weeks after the storm, she reviewed inventory and sent out emails to customers detailing what products were available in the store and what supplies were on the way. Working 12- to 18-hour days, Nichols made countless calls to vendors to keep a steady flow of merchandise into the store.
In addition, Nichols keeps the store involved in the community. She holds an annual fundraising bake sale to benefit an organization called Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, and over the past five years the event has raised more than $10,000 for pediatric cancer research. She hosts several other in-store fundraisers to benefit local organizations, provides scholarships to local high school students and invites Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops into the store. Nichols is currently the president of Thornwood-Hawthorne Chamber of Commerce and sits on the board of directors for Valhalla Ambulance. She also spent 10 years as a volunteer EMS worker and firefighter. Additionally, she volunteers as a soccer coach for Mt. Pleasant AYSO on the weekends.
Watch Aimee’s video here.