Business of Excellence – Byrum Ace Hardware
Energizing Small Towns One Hardware Store at a Time
- Business: Byrum Ace Hardware
- Location: Seven stores in central Michigan
- Owner: Jim Byrum
Jim Byrum has a vast professional background. He started his career in corporate sales. Then he represented Michigan agricultural interests in private, state and federal agencies including serving as president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association for 25 years before retiring in 2019. But it was a frustrating trip to a hardware store in Leslie, Michigan that turned him into a retailer.
“Thirty-eight years ago, I went to the local Ace hardware, interestingly enough, to buy some wire for a house we were working on, and it was closed at 2 p.m. on a Saturday,” Jim says somewhat incredulously. “I had no hardware background, no retail experience, nothing. One thing led to another, and we were offered a bank loan and ended up opening a brand new, greenfield hardware store.” The store was 4,000 square feet and within a few years was so successful it had doubled in size and become an important resource for the tiny town. Similar stories followed for Jim in other central Michigan communities – Holt, Howell, Stockbridge, Pinckney, Charlotte and most recently Gregory. Most were small towns that had lost their hardware stores or were on the verge of losing them, Jim says. In some cases, store owners were looking to sell and knew of his work revitalizing stores.
“I like small towns. Two of the towns – Charlotte and Holt – are a little larger, but most are essentially neighborhood stores,” he explains. “Over the last 20, 30 years there’s been a real loss of small-town hardware stores, and the lack of modern technology, I think, is one of the reasons. The demand for technology by retailers for a number of reasons, and the need for speed at the point of sale has changed so much over the past few years, I don’t know how stores operate without it.”
As Jim accumulated more and more stores, he was looking for a point of sale and inventory management system that was easy to use, economical and flexible. After looking at a few systems, he chose Paladin.
“(The system) needed to do the kinds of things we wanted to do – quick point of sale, smooth payment processing,” Jim says, explaining what he wanted in his POS. “A lot of the people we contacted were very complimentary of Paladin. We wanted good customer service and support, and the Paladin team did everything they could to make it an easy transition. As we have added stores, the same commitment to meet our needs and handle a smooth installation process has always been a priority.”
He runs all his stores independently and all but Gregory Hardware are under the Byrum Ace Hardware brand. The store in Pinckney is the senior member of the collection. It had been a cornerstone of the town for over 100 years before Jim acquired it and modernized it.
Jim uses Paladin Point of Sale in all his stores and uses Paladin Pilot to remotely keep track of his stores without having to visit them. The stores that are spread out over about 80 miles manage their own inventory, although they do combine large seasonal purchases such as spring fertilizers, seed and soil. They also utilize Paladin’s mobile apps and electronic tablets to make inventory management and customer service easier.
“The store managers have a lot of autonomy. They know their communities. They all live in the towns where they work. We have found that each of the stores has its own quirks regarding product and customer services. We do streamline ordering a lot, though,” he explains, adding that Paladin keeps his stores operating as efficiently and profitably as possible.
Working with Ace programs through Paladin, Jim says “all the systems are in place to operate successfully” – pricing updates, charge accounts, rewards programs, gift cards and more. The combination has obviously worked well for Jim, his wife Dianne, and their stores. Four of them – Leslie, Charlotte, Howell and Pinkney – earned Pinnacle Awards from Ace in 2022, while two others were honored as Platinum stores.
From implementation to training and use to customer support, Jim says Paladin has worked very well for all his stores.
“Customer service is very good and support calls are promptly returned. When you have a line of people waiting to give you money and something happens, you need help now. Paladin provides that help in those situations,” he says.