“In times of crisis or in times when it counts, the hardware store is there, whether it is a snowpocalypse or some type of fund-raising event for a local cause,” said Dan Moran, owner of Rocky Ridge Hardware, a Vestavia Hills fixture for 33 years.
When Dan was looking for a business opportunity in 2013, the hardware store in the Rocky Ridge Square shopping center fit the bill perfectly as it already filled a community need and came with existing clientele. Dan’s plan was to “grow the business from its existing customer base and sales numbers to the next level.”
He’s done that by gaining access to the Ace Hardware supply chain while remaining an individually branded retailer. “It has allowed us to offer premium destination brands such as Yeti, Craftsman, Traeger and Husqvarna,” said Dan. Customers come in for the brand name, large-ticket items and keep coming back for the smaller items, he said.
For the Kansas native whose wife grew up in Hoover, owning the neighborhood hardware store “allows me to be involved with family and work at the same time,” he said. The Morans have four children, all in the Vestavia Hills school system.
The store is both close to his home and convenient for his customers. “We are right down the street from wherever they are,” he said. “You can come in, talk to somebody really quick.”
His hardware store, like most, is a hub, he said. “Neighbors are coming in and swapping stories,” whether they just saw each other at last weekend’s game or haven’t talked in a year, he said. When there is severe weather, even if a shelter-in-place order has gone out, “we end up being a rallying point,” he said.
Rocky Ridge Hardware is among the many stores where Alabamians can buy tax-free items the last full weekend in February (Feb. 23-25 in 2018) to prepare for weather emergencies. In electronic communications and advertisements, “we let customers know what is included and not included in the tax holiday,” Dan said. The Alabama Retail Association provides a printable poster to its member businesses to promote the tax holiday. “With the Alabama Retail Association, the state and television stations promoting the severe weather sales tax holiday, people definitely do take advantage of it,” Dan said.
Still, many of his customers tend not to plan ahead. When bad weather hits or is about to hit, “that’s when the flashlights go, the batteries, the candles, the tarps,” he said.
During the February tax holiday, the state’s four-percent sales tax is waived on common emergency supplies costing less than $60 as well as generators valued at $1,000 or less. Rocky Ridge carries most of the covered items, except for generators. Flashlights and weather radios tend to be the most popular sellers during the tax-free event, unless there was a major weather event the year before, Dan said. Then, tarps move up the list in popularity, he said.
Rocky Ridge Hardware has been an
Alabama Retail Association member since 2017.