The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for small businesses, especially in Fairfield, CT. With restrictions tighter than ever in the region, many businesses struggled to stay open, but Hemlock Hardware's Scott Pesavento did everything he could to support employees and the local community of Fairfield.
It all started at the onset of the pandemic on March 19th, Pesavento was leading his daily morning meeting with his team at Hemlock Hardware to discuss deliveries, stock, and plans for the day and immediately could tell something was off. His employees typically had a positive demeanor about them, and that day he noticed a difference in body language. Communication is an important aspect of his leadership style, so upon discussion with his employees, they revealed that the night prior the first positive case of COVID-19 was identified in the region. His employees explained how they had family members who were high risk and worried about spreading the virus to them. At that moment, Pesavento put a key in the front door, locked up the storefront, and told his employees they were going to figure it out. At that time Pesavento admits he, like many business owners throughout the country, didn't know what was going to happen and how he was going to keep the business afloat. From then on, Pesavento transformed Hemlock Hardware into what he explains as a mini Amazon distribution center. Like many businesses, Hemlock Hardware pushed all of its business online with curbside pickup only. From March to early June, Hemlock Hardware employees didn't have direct contact with customers, as Pesavento knew just how important his employees were to his business and the local community.
Success in a Hard Time
During this troubling time, Hemlock Hardware saw year-over-year increases of more than 40%, and support from his staff was unbelievable. From the moment he locked the door on March 19th, his employees immediately had a spring in their step and knew what needed to be done to keep the business going. The business was fortunate, being an essential business, they were able to keep operations running throughout the pandemic. For four weeks straight, the business was averaging 1,000 phone calls per day from the local Fairfield community. Hemlock Hardware was ready to step up and support the community with supplies to keep themselves safe and comfortable during such a troubling time. Pesavento and his employees knew how important it was to offer their support, which is why they left no phone calls unanswered by forwarding calls to his cell phone and employees' homes. The Hemlock Hardware team stepped up during this time, and Pesavento is beyond grateful for their support.
An Active Member of the Fairfield Community
Scott Pesavento grew up in the retail industry, as he inherited the business from his father and started working at Hemlock Hardware when he was 14 years old. "I've worked in retail my entire life, I can't tell you how blessed I feel, I love everything I do, the study of retail, I feel blessed every day to be a part of it”. Not only is the retail industry something Scott is passionate about, but also the local Fairfield community. Being a member of the local Fairfield board, he worked with community leaders over the last few years to establish the Fairfield Community E-Gift Card Program. This program allows individuals to buy a gift card that can be used at participating local businesses throughout the Fairfield community. It's all about Fairfield locals supporting local businesses in the area, so for example, the gift card can be used at Hemlock Hardware, and also at the pizza restaurant across the street. In December alone, more than $45,000 worth of gift cards were purchased, all of which will be given back to local businesses.
"Local businesses are the bread and butter of local communities, we hire local people, and support local businesses. The message of the gift card is to shop local and support local, we're all here to help each other," says Pesavento.
Hemlock Hardware is no stranger to giving back to the local community, as over the last 15 years the business partnered with Giant Steps School in Fairfield. Giant Steps School is a local school for low functioning children with Autism. Before the pandemic, Hemlock Hardware established a vocational program with the children and teens of Giant Steps School. As part of this program, the teens would work three to four days per week for a couple of hours at a time as they learned important life skills from employees of Hemlock Hardware including Pesavento himself. This school and program are very important to Hemlock Hardware, which is why in addition to this program, 90% of their donations are given to Giant Steps School.
Shopping local and supporting local is what keeps our local communities going through hard times like the COVID-19 pandemic, “all of what we get is from our local community, they give to us, so how can we not give back?” says Pesavento.
This story is part of our ongoing ‘Local Memories, Lasting Impact’ series that highlights small, locally owned businesses and the differences they make in their communities.