Northwest Hardware, LLCDo It Best Success Story
TJ Comstock wasn’t born and raised to be in the hardware business. His first retail job was actually in his parents’ grocery store in Eureka, Montana. But ever since Jan and Karen Comstock purchased an adjacent hardware store, TJ’s interests have featured more hammers and nails than suits and ties.
TJ, who was named the chairman of the board at the National Retail Hardware Association earlier this year, experienced his first taste of hardware at 18 when his father asked him to run their store. After putting his stamp on the hardware store and serving as operations manager for all his parents’ businesses, TJ met Kami, who he would eventually marry, and followed her to the University of Montana where he earned degrees in finance and economics.
Nine months of sitting behind a desk at an international information technology company located in Missoula was enough to drive him back to the hardware business for good. In just a few years, TJ and Kami have become independent hardware moguls in Montana, owning a collection of five stores throughout the state.
The rapid expansion of the business earned TJ notice from the NRHA, which honored him as Young Retailer of the Year in 2010. He was asked to join the board of directors a year later and became a member of the executive board which resulted in his chairmanship this year.
His position on the board of directors has given TJ added insight into the state of the hardware and building materials industry.
“I’ve learned a lot in my time on the board. You’re dealing with the board, which is comprised of hardware guys from all different kinds of stores and co-ops. So, you get to sit around the table with a lot of people who are pretty well versed on what’s happening in our industry,” he says.
The Comstocks needed a digital platform that would allow their wide-ranging stores to operate independently but still combine their sales data for bookkeeping at a single location. TJ’s sister, Jodi McCully, runs the store in Eureka that they bought from his parents. It’s nearly 500 miles and eight hours by car to Billings, where they own two more stores. The others are in Havre and Roundup, which are 248 miles and 50 miles, respectively, from Billings.
“We basically went with Paladin because of ease of operation at the store level for the managers and cashiers. Paladin is a lot more intuitive than the system we had before. The learning curve for our people – they can pick it up a lot faster than other systems. I like Paladin’s method of development. Things are constantly being improved. Things are constantly being added.”
Paladin provides them with an intuitive and scalable digital business platform that allows their businesses to operate independently, but still link their back-office operations. They chose Paladin to run their businesses in 2007 shortly after acquiring their third store.
“We combine all of our stores. We have a unique bookkeeping setup. Everything gets reported into QuickBooks on a daily basis,” he says. “With the addition of (PaladinNsight™) and features like that, it’s a lot more robust analytical tool now than it was when we started.”
PaladinNsight™ monitors inventory performance in real time and features built-in tools that helps merchants identify stocking issues. Paladin continually refines its digital retail platform and updates its customers’ systems automatically after business hours to avoid interrupting daytime operations. The company also integrates with third-party software to provide other valuable services for its customers.