Ollie's Lumber Company storefront

Business of Excellence: Ollie’s Lumber Company Ace Hardware

by | Oct 26, 2023

  • Business: Ollie’s Lumber Company Ace Hardware
  • Location: Poteau and Pocola, Oklahoma
  • Owner: Zane Ollie Chunn
  • Years in business: 94

Zane Ollie Chunn’s great-great-grandfather took over an eastern Oklahoma lumber mill in 1927 and for close to 90 years it did business pretty much the same way. It made a lot of cash and credit card sales and had customer accounts all on hand-written receipts. Over those years, Ollie’s Lumber grew. It moved to Poteau in the 1940s, and Zane’s grandfather, Sub, opened another location in 1975 along with four other locations in Eastern Oklahoma. But it wasn’t until Zane became involved in 2016 that the stores changed the way they did business.

“When I got involved, we didn’t have a point-of-sale system, so I decided that’s the first thing I’m going to tackle,” says Zane, the sixth generation of Ollies to run the business. “Going from the way they had done it for so long with hand-written tickets, I was striving for something that would modernize us and was easy to use with good support.”

Zane found what he was looking for in Paladin Point of Sale and inventory management. Paladin simplifies the point of sale, which improves customer service with fast checkout and employee satisfaction because of its ease of use.

“My goal was to make it easy for our people to use. When we hire new people, they catch on really easily. We strive to have everybody enjoy their job. I don’t expect a fish to climb a tree, so we try to get people into jobs areas they excel,” he explains.

Ollie’s has a couple of dozen employees at each location, with many of them having 20 years or more with the business.

Zane Ollie Chun

In addition to owning and operating Ollie’s Lumber Co., Zane Ollie Chunn is a legend in the sport of cowboy mounted shooting.

Zane knows a little bit about doing what you enjoy. He is a legend in the sport of cowboy mounted shooting – imagine barrel racing, sometimes hands-free, while shooting at targets with handguns and rifles. Zane is a seven-time AQHA Mounted Shooting World Champion and a six-time Cowboy Mounted Shooting (CMSA) Overall National Champion with close to 70 professional wins. His lengthy list of riding and shooting accomplishments has earned him a spot in the CMSA Hall of Fame. Basically, he doesn’t miss.

Zane wanted that kind of precision, accuracy and enjoyment in all his businesses. Paladin provides that to Ollie’s stores.

“Aside from ease of use, I wanted it for inventory management. A business that is this old and run the way it was for so long, I wanted to get to know our inventory, what was selling, what wasn’t. I’m an information and analytical kind of guy. Paladin has really helped us there,” Zane says.

Ollie’s focused on providing lumber and building materials to contractors at both locations for most of its first century. Zane brought in Ace Hardware at both stores to expand their appeal. Building contractors accounted for close to 70% of Ollie’s business prior to 2017. Since the expansion with Ace, Zane says their business is closer to 50-50 with builders and DIY homeowners.

Inside view of Ollie's Lumber Company

Ollie’s association with Ace Hardware has given the stores added clientele.

Zane says he chose Paladin because of how smoothly it works with Ace programs. Paladin is fully integrated with Ace EDI, Ace Rewards, gift cards, coupons, B2B features, Ace National Lookup, Dynamic Promotions, and more.

“Paladin’s integration with Ace customer accounts is really nice. Our customers are able to see what we have in stock through the Ace site,” he says.

Ace Hardware offers Ace National Account pricing for many business customers online at Paladin’s integration with it allows Ollie’s to offer national discounts to local customers and offer in-store discounts to customers.

Like Ollie’s, Paladin started life in lumberyards and has refined its wide variety of lumber-specific tools for over 40 years. Custom footage calculators, special and yard order features, construction bundles and kits, job account management, and custom pricing and loyalty programs are all included in Paladin.

Paladin also offers mobile capability that allows store owners to work from anywhere with an internet connection and protects businesses with its Managed Services, which paid big dividends for Ollie’s Lumber. The business has been hit twice with ransomware over the past few years. Both times, Paladin’s Managed Services and technical support helped the stores recover quickly.

“Both times, Paladin was fabulous in getting our data back on the computers and everything cleaned up,” Zane explains. “We were able to keep both stores running, and by about the third day, Paladin had wiped the computers clean and we were operating at full strength.

“Paladin has been great for us. It’s easy to use for our employees and gives me the information I need to better manage inventory. Over the past couple of years, we’ve undertaken a lot of change. To have a point-of-sale company that’s willing to work with us and gives us great support is huge.”

Zane says with all the growth in the greater Fort Smith, Arkansas area, his business is well-positioned for success. Fort Smith sits on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border and is surrounded by the Arkansas River. Pocola is a suburb of the two-state metro area. Zane says he is already eying expansion, and that Paladin will play a role in that growth.

Mark Jackson and Ann Carder

Mark Jackson and Ann Carder operate Red Oak Hardware, a Hallmark Gold Crown, and an Ashley Furniture store all on Paladin Point of Sale.

“Our community has really supported what we’ve done over the years,” Mark explains. “Paladin has helped us. Since we switched over, everything has gone so much better and smoother.”

Red Oak is a quaint community of a little over 5,000 in southwest Iowa. It’s the county seat in Montgomery County, population about 12,000. Mark’s stores serve customers from across the 425-square-mile county.

From that small hardware store, Mark has expanded seven times over an 18-year period, increasing the size and scope of the store and adding a Hallmark Gold Crown and, most recently, an Ashley Furniture store. Mark’s wife, Ann Carder, helps run the Hallmark Gold Crown and Ashley Furniture stores. During this evolution, his business has transitioned from hand-written receipts and bookkeeping to a modern digital point-of-sale, ordering, inventory, and retail management system.

Mark's Hallmark Gold Crown store is one of three businesses he runs on Paladin Point of Sale.

Mark’s Hallmark Gold Crown store is one of his three businesses.

“When we first took over, we hand-wrote our tickets and at the end of the day, we had to transfer it over to the ledger. That’s how we did it. Back then, Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet,” he says, adding that it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that he was able to transition his business to electronic checkout and bookkeeping.

Red Oak Hardware Hank – Mark switched the store to United Hardware in 2004 – is much more than a hardware store. Sure, it features all the typical hardware departments – electrical, plumbing, paint, hand and power tools, building materials, and lawn and garden supplies – but it also has an extensive sporting goods selection with a professional tennis pro shop, home electronics and appliances, housewares, outdoor living goods, cleaning supplies, office supplies, and more. The store also offers equipment rentals and delivery.

Along with his Hallmark store and Ashley furniture store, Mark and Ann run them all on Paladin.

“Since we switched to Paladin, the ability for us to do things like remote access, being able to run our furniture store, which is across the square, all from one system is amazing. I never dreamed of anything like that,” Mark says.

Paladin Pilot allows Mark to access his business network and work from anywhere with an internet connection. And Paladin Managed Services set Red Oak Hardware up with a virtual private network (VPN). The network allows Mark to run his remote stores through his Red Oak Hardware business network. It simplifies nearly every aspect of his retail business.

Sporting goods section at Red Oak Hardware Hank

Red Oak Hardware Hank offers a wide variety of items including a professional line of tennis equipment.

“The remote access really worked well, especially during the pandemic. Since then, we use it when I’m traveling or at a dealer market. It’s nice, if I forget to do something at work I don’t have to go into the store, I just phone in from home,” he says.

Paladin is also fully integrated with United Hardware’s electronic data interchange (EDI) which simplifies ordering and inventory control. Red Oak Hardware also runs its rentals through Paladin, operates its Pointy from Google web presence, and maintains its margins with Paladin’s pricing features.

The business reached approximately $900,000 in sales during the surge in home improvement spending following the pandemic. With the addition of Ashley Furniture, he expects to surpass the $1 million mark from here out.

“Pricing is so easy to work with. If you’re overpriced on a single item, a customer could take their business for a $300 project elsewhere. So, we make sure we’re competitively priced everywhere,” he says.

Mark credits Paladin’s automation of so many routine retail tasks with keeping his staff and business processes simple and lean. It’s easy to learn, teach and use point-of-sale is also a big plus.

“The system is so easy to use, I can bring somebody in here, and if they’ve even ever seen a computer before, we can have them running the same day. Before Paladin we had a learning curve,” Mark explains. “The automation has allowed us to keep our staff lean. We have six full-time and the rest are part-time, and our business runs very smoothly.”

Support is another reason Mark loves his technology provider. Much like the way his customers have supported his business, he says Paladin has given him the support he needs to run his business efficiently.

“The service that we get from Paladin is so great. If we have a question or there’s something we want to accomplish,” like setting up a new store on the same system, Mark explains, “we call and work out a solution. Those are the kinds of things Paladin does for us.”

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