For Authentic Retail Experience, Shop Local.

Terry-Lumber-accessory-table

I love going to our local hardware store / lumber yard. Terry Lumber Supply has been a fixture in the Peninsula area for over 70 years. The last 28 years they’ve been selling lumber, hardware and supplies out of their current location in our local Ohio hometown.

Even if you aren’t a retail designer, or merchant, a trip to Terry Lumber Supply is a treat, especially if you like to explore. It’s not a large store but it packs plenty of opportunities to browse; discovering things that you might need for that weekend project or the “to do” list your spouse handed to you.

The interior is not overwrought in my opinion. Walls are simply painted white and the ceiling is a grid of tiles. A cupola with clearstory windows adds a stream of natural daylight for the center of the store. Beyond that degree of simplicity though guests are welcome to explore rambling aisles and a plethora of old displays. I suspect many of the displays date clear back to when the store was founded by John J. “Terry” Montaquila in 1940. And they are still being used to display modern products. As a designer it’s like walking through a retail display museum. I always feel like I need to go back and spend more time there. That being said, there is a lot packed into one store; giving it the charm of times past. But it’s an authentic charm. Not manufactured and not trying to fool you. That case holding threaded rods? It’s the real deal, likely pulled from a local library decades ago.

There is a full complement of tools, plumbing supplies and paint. Each area has been curated and shaped over the years; merchandising product without fanfare, but with a unique local feeling.

It just feels like “home”.

In one corner is the most wondrously quaint fastener area. Nails and screws sit in open bins and are bought by the pound, using a vintage scale, presumably the same way as you would buy such things nearly a century ago. You just don’t get that experience in a big box store. That same sentiment extends to other areas as well. It’s what really differentiates this independent retailer from its mass brethren. When you go there your project feels more special, more historical. You’re not just buying commodity boards of wood and a hammer, you’re human, you’re part of something.

An old scale for weighing nails for sale by the pound.

An old scale for weighing nails for sale by the pound.

Terry-Lumber-tail-display-2

I’ve learned to go right to the spacious desk area and ask for input from the staff on my latest supply needing endeavor back at the homestead. Accessibility, courtesy and knowledge of associates also sets them apart, just as it should in any independent store front. Sure I may not be able to find everything, or the prices may be higher for particular items, but the guest experience makes it well worth any perceived tradeoffs. And actually, when we were building our home nearby, this local little shop was able to order a specific type of house wrap that couldn’t be found in any other store or sales channel.

Over time it’s definitely worth building a relationship with the team there, just as you would with an insurance person, doctor or mechanic. In the long run it’ll make life easier when you’re in a DIY bind. And building that relationship is a pure delight in such store environment. I think you can even still get a cold soda from a vintage cooler near the checkout area. And with Spring warming up, that sounds like a good way to take a break from working outside on a Saturday afternoon.

The point here is that local stores naturally gravitate towards an authentic retail experience that is difficult to recreate on a mass scale. Even so, there still are opportunities for design to improve the experience and functionality. Regardless though, as a designer it’s always refreshing to shop locally; discovering, admiring and refilling my creative spirit.

What’s your favorite local store that you love to explore?

What is it about the store that makes you smile?

Answer below in the comments, after the photos.

-Chris Weigand

President, Chris Weigand Design

Chris has been designing retail displays and environments for nearly 17 years. Chris Weigand Design is focused on making design accessible to independent retailers. Contact us today by visiting www.chrisweiganddesign.com

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