When Henry Foster Herrick took a job as an assistant for Mr. C. Parsons at his general store in the mid-1860s, the village of Southampton, New York, was a quiet shore community made up mostly of farmers and whalers.
In 1869, Herrick purchased the general store, changing the name to Herrick Hardware and serving area residents with dry goods, farming supplies and hardware. Several years later, Herrick would become postmaster and the store would share a building with the post office for many years.
While a stroll down Main Street looks a lot different today than it did 150 years ago, Herrick Hardware still stands in the center of town, woven into the landscape and history of the village. As times have changed, the store has remained an integral part of the community, while adapting its offerings to best serve its customers.
The business is now owned by Herrick’s great-granddaughter Deborah Hare and her husband Noel, who are the fourth generation of the family to own and operate the store. They purchased the store from Deborah’s father, Sam Herrick, in 1972. Noel had just graduated from Harvard University, and the couple had spent a year traveling the West Coast when they decided to return to Southampton and take over the business from Sam.
Changing With the Times
When the Hares took over the store, they immediately invested in technology upgrades, purchasing a computer for the store and adding an inventory barcode system. They have been making technology and service improvements to the business ever since.
Manager Stefanel Grigoras, who has been with the operation for 12 years, says throughout all the changes, the store has still retained its original charm and some of the historical aspects have endured.
“As the times changed, so did the business. We shifted our focus from farmers and farming lifestyles to homeowners, vacationers and second-home owners,” Grigoras says.
Herrick Hardware is known for its housewares and outdoor living, but serves the community as a one-stop shop for everything they need to take care of their homes, including cleaning supplies, home improvement products and hardware.
“We pride ourselves on being a store with everything a homeowner would need to take care of a garden, create an outdoor oasis, clean and organize their homes and more,” Grigoras says.
Southampton has long been a getaway for city-dwellers from New York City, and Grigoras says the store saw more customers shopping for their second homes in the area as they retreated from the city during the pandemic.
Herrick Hardware has moved to sell more environmentally friendly goods and has incorporated technology to better serve customers. Grigoras says he has partnered with his wholesaler to offer free delivery and buy online, pickup in store services. The store also accepts contactless payments through Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay, and Grigoras is working on adding more e-commerce capabilities to the website.
“Every employee in the store uses their personal phone to look up products and place online orders for customers,” he says. “We can take care of a customer without them even having to go to a register. It’s another part of the transition to provide more modern offerings to our customers.”
No matter what technology the store adds, the ultimate goal is taking care of the customer, Grigoras says. The store’s nine employees are key to providing the extra level of customer service that Herrick Hardware is known for.
“Our success is based on the knowledge and guidance of our employees,” he says. “That knowledge and service is what sets us apart from the big-box stores and Amazon.”
Grigoras has coached employees to not just help a customer find a product and then send them on their way. They ask the customer questions about the project they are working on, so the employee can be sure they are recommending the right products and educating the customer in the process.
“We are a retail business, and so we want to sell and continue to be in business for a long time, but we’re not trying to oversell,” Grigoras says. “Our main goal is customer happiness and satisfaction.”
A pandemic, supply chain issues and labor shortages over the last two years didn’t stop Herrick Hardware from being there for its customers. Grigoras says during that time, people fled New York City for Southampton, and business nearly tripled.
“It was chaos. We didn’t have extra inventory, we weren’t fully staffed and it hit us hard. But within a month, we were able to get on top of it and provide our customers with the products and service they needed,” he says. “Moving forward, I want to be better prepared so I can help our customers and our village even better.”
Looking to the Future
As the Hares and Grigoras plan for what is next for Herrick Hardware, the future is bright. Building on the storied past of the company, Grigoras wants to create an even more customer-friendly experience by reorganizing the store, continuing to train employees to offer high levels of customer service and maintaining services like delivery, assembly and e-commerce options.
“I also want to make customers more aware of our pricing compared to our competitors so they can see that we can often meet or beat those prices,” he says.
Grigoras also wants to dive into high-end and exclusive product lines and offer products that customers can only find at Herrick Hardware.
“I want our store to be a place where you feel comfortable coming in wearing your work boots or your high-end fashion,” he says.
“We want to honor our history as a hardware store and continually look to serve new customers with their home improvement needs.”