For Rathdrum Trading Post Hardware, a Do it Best member in Rathdrum, Idaho, community support truly runs on a two-way street. In one direction, passionate members of the community lace up their boots to help their beloved hometown hardware store move through a crisis. In the other direction, this local business pays it forward by supporting the next generation of community leaders.
In 2016, Rathdrum Trading Post had big plans for a new location. The local hardware store planned to move from a 9,000-square-foot sales floor to a 12,000-square-foot space. Then, mere months before the store’s current lease ended, the team received an eviction notice from new building owners. The notice required the company to vacate its existing location in less than 60 days.
“That was quite a shock,” says general manager Matt Smith. “You can’t just pick up a store and move on a whim.”
To make matters worse, Rathdrum Trading Post also had to cope with an 18,000-square-foot competitor coming into town.
“It didn’t look good,” says Smith. After meeting with the entire team, Smith says some employees had the idea to try using one of the shopping center’s vacant spaces as a temporary location. Smith tried to get in touch with the building owners but didn’t hear back right away.
At around 5 p.m. on the day of receiving the eviction notice, Smith took to social media to update customers. He wrote a post that explained the uncertainty of his store’s future. Then, the power of social media kicked in.
“Normally on a Facebook post, we might get a couple hundred people engaging in a couple days’ time,” Smith says. “By the morning, we had over 9,000 people view this post and we had over 100 shares, which works out to more than one percent of the community.”
The Facebook post sparked widespread buzz and even got the attention of the local media. It also got the attention of the building owners, who agreed to let Rathdrum Trading Post move into a temporary space in the shopping center. By the following afternoon, they had reached an agreement.
This wouldn’t be the first time Smith moved the store – but it would quickly become the most memorable move. Members of the community offered to volunteer their time and help however they could.
“We had all kinds of offers,” Smith says. “We didn’t feel right accepting volunteers, so we hired a temporary workforce to help us do this, and there was no shortage of folks willing to help.”
In less than 60 days, Smith, the Rathdrum Trading Post team and an army of community members moved out of the existing location. Three-quarters of the inventory went to the temporary location, while the rest went into storage until the new location was ready.
“We would not have done it if we had not had that support,” Smith says. “It was a pretty intense time, and we never closed the store. We kept the store open the whole time.”
When Smith recalls the entire experience, more than two years later, he struggles to find the words. “Humbling is the best word I can think of,” he says. “People wouldn’t do this for a big-box store or an out-of-town operation.”
Eventually, the new location was ready to go, and business went back to normal for Rathdrum Trading Post. Still, the community support has not subsided, as the store has experienced steady sales growth since the ordeal.
The community support doesn’t go unnoticed or unanswered. The Rathdrum Trading Post team has strong ties to the community – and particularly to its younger members. For the last five years, the store has invited local elementary school students into its shop ahead of the holiday gift-giving season for a “Golden Ticket” night. The store stays open late and serves cookies and hot chocolate. Each student gets a Golden Ticket worth $5, which they can spend however they want. Many children choose to pick out a gift for a parent or family member.
“For some, this is the only way they can get a present or participate in the gift-giving season,” says Smith. “It has become a tradition for many local families.”
Rathdrum Trading Post also funds a reading program for local first-graders and hosts an outdoor event to encourage kids to put down their electronics and use their imaginations. For Students of the Month at local junior high schools, the store delivers monthly lunches and recognition in the local media for Students of the Month.
“The onus of this was that the junior high schools get left out of a lot of programs, compared with the elementary and high schools,” explains Smith. Even so, Rathdrum Trading Post has agreed to expand the program to two high schools, after the schools asked to participate.
As the old adage goes, “You get what you give.” Rathdrum Trading Post keeps open a two-way street of community support in its Idaho community. As a result, this local business can weather a crisis and foster the next generation of passionate community leaders. For more information about Rathdrum Trading Post, visit www.tradingposthardware.com.
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.