Business of Excellence: Military Hardware
- Business: Military Hardware
- Location: Columbus, Mississippi
- Owner: Robert and Mary Ann Benton
- Years in business: 63, 2 under current owner
Robert Benton has worn many hats in life. He has been a facilities manager, an engineer, and a Gulf War veteran. But he had never done anything in retail before he and wife, Mary Ann, bought Military Hardware in Columbus, Mississippi in 2020. Luckily, he says, the previous owner equipped the store with a retail management system from Paladin Data Corporation about four years before he bought it. Robert says he leans heavily on his point-of-sale system and Paladin support.
“I was not in retail until I bought this store. I never had to interface with one before,” he explains, referring to his store’s management system. “The previous store manager worked with Paladin to set it up. Did a brilliant job. I’ve had to take on that job since he left, so I’ve been really impressed with the system and the customer service at Paladin. They walk me through any challenges that come up.”
Paladin was Military Hardware’s first retail management system, migrating from cash registers to Paladin’s intuitive point of sale system.
Military Hardware is truly a family-run business. Robert and Mary Ann own and operate it daily. Their daughter, Jessica Tackett, is the office manager. And their son, Andrew, worked there, too, before opening his own business. The store has been operating in Columbus since 1959 and has earned a reputation as the place to go for just about anything hardware, especially hard-to-find items.
“We are called the ‘Wind-up Store,’” Robert says with a laugh. “You’re going to go to all the other places looking for what you need, but you’re going to wind up here. The customers gave us that name.”
Military Hardware is an old-fashioned hardware store. Hardware, plumbing, electrical supplies, fasteners, household items, lawn and garden items are the store’s bread and butter. However, it also features an extensive outdoor cooking department with grills by Traeger, Weber and Char-Broil, Blackstone griddles, smokers from Bayou Classic and Pit Boss, and all the accessories.
In addition to supplying homeowners with their hardware needs, Military Hardware also works extensively with local contractors, Columbus public schools, area colleges, and Columbus Air Force Base.
The store was honored in 2021 as the best hardware store in the Columbus Dispatch’s reader’s poll “Best of the Triangle,” which refers to the Golden Triangle region of east-central Mississippi.
“We’re an old-time hardware store. When you come in the door, you’re greeted by somebody who knows what you’re looking for. We have very personalized care. Very customer oriented unlike a lot of the box stores. That’s our strength,” Robert says.
While customer service is Robert’s strength, managing a retail store wasn’t when he started. So, he relies on Paladin’s easy-to-operate point of sale system. It is simple to learn, use and teach, making it the perfect retail platform in these times of a tight labor market.
Paladin’s electronic data interchange (EDI) makes it easy for Robert to process orders with his suppliers. It allows up to three suppliers and makes it simple to keep his store optimally stocked.
Robert also likes how Paladin’s Market Driven Inventory Management™ helps him keep track of his inventory. He says it makes year-end inventory a breeze. He’s also a fan of Paladin’s 100% USA-based customer service.
“I’m really impressed. If I have any questions, it’s good to know they can come in and help me out. If I need something new installed, they can do it overnight so I can get back to business quickly.”