Grandpa Howard Miller, our founder, and Jay Lehman, the founder of Lehman’s, were always very fond of each other. Grandpa and Jay had that mutual respect and admiration for each other. Although they were both in hardware retailing, at the time their customers were much different and there was little overlap which allowed them to share ideas. Grandpa would occasionally be seen at Lehman’s on Thursday nights so they could discuss and debate best practices. Proverbs 27:17 comes to mind where Solomon wrote “As Iron sharpens Iron, so one person sharpens another.” This relationship went from business acquaintances and ended up cultivating a friendship. In fact, Grandpa bought his last piece of furniture on a buying trip with Jay before he passed in 2001.
Grandpa loved unique items and I think that was part of the lure to Lehman’s and Jay. One item that Grandpa was excited about at Hartville Hardware was an Amish made broom. Maybe the broom was found on a trip together? Grandpa was really all about helping to serve others, and I think that was his “why” to bring in products like this. He wanted to know the owners and strived to make them successful.
HRM, the parent company of Hartville Hardware, Marketplace and Kitchen, acquired Lehman’s two years ago, and it has been a wonderful partnership. As you can see, Jay and Grandpa Howard were friends, and the short 45-minute ride from Hartville to Kidron made it easier. Besides the fact that they were both small business owners, they also grew up in the Mennonite church. This created a very similar culture between the two businesses and made the transition an easier one for our employees.
When we looked at acquiring Lehman’s, there were three main things that made it attractive. First and foremost was the team and culture. We know at HRM we have a unique culture, and we believe it is our most important competitive advantage and we didn’t want to change that. Secondly, we look at businesses that are destination retail – businesses that customers would come from miles away to visit and enjoy their time. Lastly, we knew they had a great ecommerce business. With the evolving customer desires, we need to reach all our customers in order to provide the service they deserve.
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That’s beautiful to learn the story of their friendship. I’m 48 now but I spent summers as a child with my Mennonite Grandpa (also a local businessman) and he took me to Kidren every Thursday to the Amish animal auction and we are related to the Lehman’s. My grandfather sold his homemade ice cream recipe, which was served across the street from Lehman’s Hardware for many years. I have so many wonderful memories of walking around that beautiful store and hope to return again with my family soon. Thank you for keeping such a wonderful treasure going!
Thank you for your kind comment and for being a great customer!