by Brian Bullock | January 26, 2024
- Business: Red Oak Hardware Hank
- Location: Red Oak, Iowa
- Owner: Mark Jackson
- Years in business: 41
In 1983, Mark Jackson took over a small hardware store in Red Oak, Iowa. When he marked his 40th year in the community in 2023, his little store had grown into three businesses spread throughout five buildings surrounding Red Oak’s Fountain Square. Each of them is three stories filled with products and shoppers. Mark credits the residents of Red Oak for his stores’ success and Paladin Data Corporation for helping him run them.
“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.
“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.
“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.”