Monday, May 9, 2011

A family company that became family to me.

It all started because I knew 3 hinges went on a door.  I was living in New Hampshire and had worked for an architectural millwork company.  I was the all purpose general office person.  My duties included typing Hardware Schedules. After a time I knew to check for a closer if the opening was fire  rated and if the door height was 8’0” 4 hinges should be scheduled.  The very basics.

I found myself out of a job just when the electronic industry crashed. Luckily one of my former co-workers knew a door & hardware company that might need a salesperson.  He made a phone call and I had an interview.  I was so scared because really I wasn’t a salesperson!  I met with Jim Tartre, then the Regional Manager for hci/craftsmen in Nashua, NH and amazingly I was hired.   The company took the time and energy to train me in the ways of doors and hardware.  I was stunned. No company had ever taken such an interest in me.

After about 8 months “the big four” out of corporate came to visit.   Corporate was Pleasants Hardware Company who had purchased hci/Craftsmen several months before I was hired. The main branch was located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The big four consisted of the President, Ed Pleasants, the CEO, Chuck Hummel, CFO Sam Smoak and the HR Director, Ginny Cole.  Again I was stunned.  I had never worked for a company where the top four executives visited each branch once a year to share how both the branch and overall company fared for the previous year. Also discussed were the goals for the upcoming year.  This seemed like a really nice company. 

This meeting is where I also realized, for the first time, that there were several branches up and down the east coast.  I immediately looked to what was the southernmost branch and it was in Tampa, FL.  Florida!  My family all lived in Florida and after a divorce and the passing of my mother-in-law there was nothing left for me in New Hampshire.  Maybe I could go home.  I reached out to Ginny Cole after the meeting and basically just said if, sometime in the future, there was ever an opening in the Florida office I would appreciate being considered. 

It was a few months later when I received a call from Chuck Hummel asking if I would be interested in flying down to Tampa to talk to the Branch Manager, Pat Wright and by the way Pleasants would pay for airfare, hotel and car rental.  Would I!  Yes! My heart was racing!  The deal was in order to get a better airfare Pleasants flew me down on Thursday evening to meet with Pat on Friday but I wouldn’t return to NH until Sunday.   So I flew down and checked into my hotel.  I made sure my suit was crisp – no wrinkles.  Friday morning I dressed carefully and went to the Pleasants Tampa office around 11:30.  I walked in and immediately felt overdressed because everyone was in jeans and they were having a pizza party.  After introducing me to some folks Pat and I went into his office.  It was immediately clear to me that Chuck had forced this interview and Pat really didn’t feel he needed me.  He asked me a lot of questions and had me do a quick take off from a blue print.  That was it.  He shook my hand and I left.

Needless to say I was in tears.  I knew I had somehow blown it and I wasn’t going to get the job.  I called some friends who lived in Naples and they insisted I drive down to stay with them.  Sunday I flew back home to New Hampshire and settled back into my not so happy life.  It was a long 3 months when finally, in December, Chuck Hummel contacted me again and asked me how soon I could be ready to move to FLORIDA!   The hardest thing I had to do was tell Jim Tartre I was transferring.  He had become a mentor and I was going to miss him and the whole Nashua gang.  I had only been there a short time but these were important people in my life.

January 3rd found me driving to Florida, by myself, with a dog and cat in the car.  My belongings were being packed and shipped down courtesy of Pleasants.  Again I had never been treated so well.  Pat Wright took the time to call me before I left to welcome me to the branch.  He spent time driving over to the apartment I had rented sight unseen to make sure it was in a good area.  Never did I see any indication that I wasn’t a valued member of the Tampa team and we laughed about the job interview many times over the years. 

What I didn’t know was that as I was driving down to Florida my future BFF was driving from Pleasants Tampa to be trained at corporate for a few months.  That definitely is a story for another time.  Let me just say when she called to see how her co-workers were doing she always asked about “that girl” that was sitting at her desk. Me! 

Pat ended up being a mentor to me too.  I learned so much from him and the whole branch.  We were good too.  In an area that was (and still is) saturated with distributors we met our goals and had fun doing it.  We became a family.  In fact so much so after the sad day when Pat Wright left to manage a branch in Vermont we still continued to hit our goals, without a branch manager.  In fact we didn’t have one again for several years.

The whole Pleasants Hardware Company family was such a class act.  I use the values and skills I learned working for them every single day.  Ed Pleasants sold the company and I stayed through the 4th or 5th turnover.  One day I looked up and realized most of the people I respected had left so it was time I did too.  I am still in touch with many of the former Pleasants gang and we talk about the good ol days.   We had no idea how good we had it.

To read my BFF, Amanda Wilson's introduction to Pleasants Hardware please follow this link: