It was 1927 when my grandfather, Robert Taylor, and four of his business partners opened Feed, Fuel and Building Supplies with $1,750 and an old Ford truck between them. The twenties were roaring and even the sleepy little town of Virginia Beach showed signs of stirring. This led them to believe that by offering excellent products at value prices - with unmatched customer service thrown in for good measure - they could make a name for themselves in the business community. As it turned out, they were spot on.
Now, 85 years later, the Taylor legacy lives on. Today, you’ll find 9 of my family’s hardware stores – Taylor’s Do it Centers – across Hampton Roads, Va. A lot has changed over the years – new stores, new products and new technology. But I truly believe that if my grandfather or any of his fellow founders were to walk into any one of our locations, the way they were greeted and served would make them feel right at home.
After working with my father, Dawson, and my two brothers, Joe and Russ, for more than 25 years, I moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to become the President and CEO for Do it Best Corp., the cooperative that Taylor’s has been a member of since 1990. Here, we’re blessed with the guidance of a heartfelt philosophy, one created by our founder Arnold Gerberding: “Serving others as we would like to be served”. Customer service is one of the key differentiators between our big box competition and us. Many of our members - just like my own family’s stores - are multi-generational family-owned businesses where customers are far more than a sale; they’re friends and neighbors they’ve known for decades. And, while their local roots and customer connections provide a firm foundation, our member-owners understand the importance of offering a complete package that includes the right products at the right prices in the right location. The combined buying power they enjoy along with their 4000 fellow independent member-owners of Do it Best Corp. helps make that happen.
Coming from a tradition of local business ownership, I am an avid supporter of the “buy local” movement. It supports entrepreneurs who are more closely tied and invested in their local communities. These are not venture capitalists who worry only about the bottom line, they’re hard working people who are going after their dreams in an effort to make a good living for themselves and their employees. These entrepreneurs are ensuring a solid tax base to support the services that benefit their communities. Most importantly, the “buy local” movement supports an improved quality of life for the towns and cities in which Do it Best members operate.
Ultimately, independents “do it best”. The customer service and sense of community you get from the employees, managers and owners is something you can’t find at most mass merchants. We independents also give back to the community far more than big boxes. In fact, for every square foot occupied by a local firm, the local economic impact is $179, versus $105 for a chain store*.
Next time you’re in the market for a chain saw, a new wardrobe or even a cup of coffee, I urge you to visit Independent We Stand’s buy local search engine and consider the options in your area. You’ll find independently owned businesses like my family’s and 4,000 others partnered with Do it Best Corp. who are committed to providing you the friendly service you deserve while actively reinvesting in your local economy.
*Civic Economics – 2004 Andersonville Study of Retail Economics