October 7, 2011
As Lowe’s opens —
Hardware stores face competitor
Owners expect to withstand pressure from big box retailer
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Ken DeMunn, owner of JTS Lumber, writes up a bill for Suit-Kote employees Kris Cowen and Elijah Closson at his south Main Street business. The lumber store has been in business for 37 years in Cortland.
CORTLANDVILLE – Ken DeMunn says he is not worried about Lowe’s home improvement store opening today on Route 13 in Cortlandville.
DeMunn has owned JTS Lumber on Main Street in Cortland for 37 years. His business sells many of the same items — gypsum wallboard, siding, roofing, lumber, kitchen cabinets — that will be offered at the new Lowe’s store. But DeMunn says his store will continue on, just as it has for years.
“It’s not like the sky is falling down,” DeMunn said. “We’ll compete with our lumber, our Sheetrock, our customer service.”
For area hardware and building supply stores, Lowe’s opening adds another competitor into an already-crowded retail industry. Representatives from local businesses acknowledge that the new Lowe’s adds major competition, but say they are confident they will do just fine.
“Once the newness (of Lowe’s) wears off, I think people will continue to come to us,” said Zack Snyder, co-manager of HEP Sales & North Main Lumber on Route 13, about a mile down the road from the new Lowe’s.
Snyder says his store already competes with Lowe’s and Home Depot stores in Ithaca for lumber sales. HEP Sales & North Main Lumber has been in Cortlandville for about 22 years and has about 15 other locations in Central New York and one in Sayre, Pa.
Representatives from all the local stores interviewed for this story said they believed their customer service and time in the community would help them keep customers.
“We feel we can compete with our prices and customer service,” said Bill Knight a floor manager for Valu Home Center on Groton Avenue. He declined to elaborate.
Representatives from Builder’s Best on Luker Road also offered a statement:
“For more than 20 years, Builder’s Best has prided itself on providing top quality building products to contractors and homeowners throughout the Cortland and Ithaca area,” said Steve O’Donnell, the company’s general manager. “Our professional and knowledgeable staff sets us apart from competitors and works tirelessly to ensure each customer gets the service they need. Nothing will change that.”
O’Donnell said the company welcomes any new business to town that will “help shoulder the high tax burden here.”
The area businesses will be competing for customers like Dennis and Diane Shaver, of Dryden. The couple came to the Lowe’s store this morning in search of a light bulb that uses light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.
Dennis Shaver said he will continue to shop at the other local stores for individual items because he wants to support their business. But he added he would probably go to Lowe’s when he needs to make multiple purchases.
“It’s just more efficient,” Shaver said. “If you come here, you can buy everything from a light bulb to a (lawn) tractor.”
Sharon Flint, a Preble resident, said she usually travels from Preble to Camillus to go to 9the Lowe’s there. She went to the Lowe’s in Cortland this morning with her husband, James, to buy a steel roof for their home.
“We’ll probably be here every week,” she said.
Others said they liked having Lowe’s in Cortlandville, because it means less driving to their other locations.
“I built my own home so I do a lot of shopping at Lowe’s,” said Bill Harrower, who lives on Page Green Road in Virgil. “I’m glad it’s here because it means a lot less driving.”
Snyder said he views HEP Sales & North Main Lumber as a “one-stop shop,” where customers can find what they need for bathroom, kitchen, electrical, heating and plumbing products.
He said it’s been hard to ignore Lowe’s development over the last year because “it’s right in our backyard.”
“You like to think there’s enough business to go around,” Snyder said.
Lowe’s opening is a couple of years in the making. The town approved the site plan for Lowe’s project in November 2008.
The store has 94,000 square feet of retail sales space, with an adjacent 26,000-square-foot garden center. Construction at the site started earlier this year.
The new Lowe’s store will employ about 125 people, the majority of whom are from the area.
Citing Lowe’s opening and increasing costs of doing business, Ginny Toomey, owner Cortland Hardware on Main Street, said in a Cortland Standard story last month that she is closing her hardware store. The store has been in business for 58 years and will close at the end of the year.
DeMunn, the owner of JTS Lumber, is not sure if all the local hardware and building supply stores will survive. He says customers will ultimately decide where they want to shop.
“The weak ones are going to die and the strong one’s are going to survive, “ DeMunn says. “That’s life.”
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