When she was a senior in high school, Victoria Cook-Cranton had a passion for painting. Her hobby often took her to Annapolis Home Hardware Building Centre in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, where she browsed the aisles for the materials she needed for her art projects. After frequent visits to the store and the encouragement from a family friend who worked there, she took on a part-time role in the business.
After graduating from high school, she went on to university where she earned a bachelor’s degree in history and later returned to complete a bachelor’s degree in education. Over the years, she would return to work in the store when class was out of session.
“Every summer, I came back to the store and took on various roles,” she says. “Getting to try a little of everything was fun and made me want to continue to learn and grow with the company.”
Cook-Cranton spent time teaching overseas after earning her degree and when she returned home to Nova Scotia, she knew she had a place at the store. When the owners purchased a new location in 2010, she had the opportunity to combine her love for the business and passion to teach, becoming the human resources (HR) and training manager for both stores.
Nearly 20 years after Cook-Cranton started working for the company, she now works as the floor manager and has excelled within the business.
The Lawrie Group of Companies was founded when Robin and Beth Lawrie built Annapolis Home Hardware in 1982. Their son Rob and his wife Joanne purchased the store in 1999, and the couple continues to own and operate the family business.
Soon after taking over ownership, Rob and Joanne had their eye on growing the business, expanding from their first location to seven stores. Through it all, Cook-Cranton says the business has remained a community staple because of its knowledgeable staff and great customer service offered at all locations.
“Our town has less than 500 people,” Cook-Cranton says. “They know when they come to any of our stores that our staff is going to be able to help them with their projects.”
Along with being the No. 1 place for locals to find products to tackle a variety of home improvement needs, Cook-Cranton says the team focuses on maintaining a strong presence in the community through memorable events, including festivals and parades, charity golf tournaments, theater events and events designed for kids.
One way the team has found success connecting with their customers is by hosting the same events year after year, like their kid’s Halloween party or storytime with Santa, giving customers something to look forward to.
“Our Halloween and Christmas holiday events have been going on for many years now. They are so much fun for the staff and families in the community to participate in,” she says. “Our staff dresses up and gets in the holiday spirit, and our customers look forward to both events every year. They love to share their favorite memories when they shop at our store.”
The store also hosts garden parties, ladies’ nights and cooking demos. In recent years, they have used social media to spread the word about events and showcase the fun.
“Our social media presence allows us to try new things and constantly have fun,” Cook-Cranton says. “In addition to highlighting events, the entire team finds creative ways to engage with our customers.”
A few ways the team has experimented with engaging with customers on social media is by having the staff create commercials to promote products and hosting Christmas contests online. To take their social media and local presence to new heights, Annapolis Home Hardware even hired a marketing coordinator to focus on their social media presence.
“We get a lot of engagement on Facebook from posts featuring our staff members,” Cook-Cranton says. “Now that we have an employee dedicated to managing our social media, we can continue to connect with our customers even when they’re not physically in the store.”
Over the course of Cook-Cranton’s nearly 20-year career in the home improvement industry, she has looked for opportunities to teach others and also learn and improve herself.
“When I first started, I used NHPA’s courses,” she says. “When I was the training manager years later, I loved using the online courses to train our staff.”
To further her education and knowledge in the industry and grow as a leader, Cook-Cranton, along with one of her colleagues, enrolled in NHPA’s Retail Management Certification Program (RMCP).
When she began the course, she had three years under her belt as the floor manager. She says the class allowed her to step away from the day-to-day tasks of the business and spend time working on her management skills among her peers.
“My experience learning with RMCP was fantastic,” Cook-Cranton says. “The program changed how I lead others and how I look at our stores. It really helped me craft the vision of what type of leader I want to be.”
Cook-Cranton says the team at The Lawrie Group understands that the industry is constantly changing and it’s vital to keep up with those changes to grow. The company currently has two supervisors taking NHPA’s Foundations of Leadership program to continue to strengthen its business and the employees within it.
“It’s great to be a part of a company that supports its employees and wants them to continue to learn and grow,” Cook-Cranton says. “I’m happy to see others find new ways to improve the business as a team.”
For Cook-Cranton, what she loves about the home improvement industry is that it is always changing.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new and then have the opportunity to help someone else with that knowledge,” she says.
Through it all, Cook-Cranton says she can rely on the lessons she’s learned over the years, formally and while on the job. She knows she has the support of the Annapolis Home Hardware staff, who have become another family to her.
“I may be biased, but we have the best staff,” she says. “I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by such great people who truly care about each other, the business and the customers who come into our store.”