Most people think of hardware stores as Mom & Pop operations, because Mom & Pop actually run them. Go figure. Blackhawk is no exception since Mom, Pop, Son & Brother all work here.
The perception is often that we are a modern version of the Dodo bird, set for extinction. As with most things in life, the reality is a bit different than the perception. The hardware industry is different from a lot of other small family businesses that have struggled to be competitive against the growth of mega chains that dominate by their sheer size and number.
The hardware stores differ from the dime store, independent drug store, or corner grocery stores of the past in that most are members of co-ops. In the late forties co-ops were formed by hardware store owners in an attempt to consolidate buying power. The dairy industry is another area where co-ops have enabled family farms to thrive in the face of growth by corporate agro-business .
When people hear the name Ace or True Value they think franchise. Co-ops are different from franchises in several important ways. Co-ops are solely owned by the members. The only way to become a member is to own a hardware store and purchase stock in the co-op. Sell the hardware and you must relinquish your co-op stock.
Franchises are usually corporate entities that provide buying power, management expertise, and set of rules and industry knowledge and know how that franchisees must follow. The franchisee has a strict set of rules and mandates that must be adhered to. The franchisee pays the franchiser a fee for this expertise.
Co-op members on the other hand are free for the most part to operate their businesses as they deem best . They are not bound to purchase merchandise or services from the co-op. Since it is member owned, any profits earned by the co-op must be returned to the member yearly based on the amount of purchases made.
Hardware co-ops have evolved from collective buyers of merchandise to full service providers of almost everything needed to operate a successful hardware. National advertising, computer systems , and private label merchandise are examples of the things that a co-op provides.
This arrangement allows each store to have the systems and programs of a chain with the opportunity to have a unique look and personality. Blackhawk has used the flexibility that a co-op offers to go into a number of categories that are not associated with a hardware. Our goal is to recognize the needs of the neighborhood and provide the products and services that people want.
Our board of directors, buying department, human resources, and marketing department have lunch together every day. As a result, we can do things that would never be possible in a big corporation. We buy from over 1800 vendors, which would never work in a corporate situation , since it would not be seen as efficient . We look at it as the only way to get the variety of new and unique items that make Blackhawk different.