Monday, June 28, 2010

Do it Best Corp., Part I

Today marks a significant milestone for Do it Best Corp. June 28, 1945 saw the beginning of what would  become today's Do it Best. We have a great history story to share with you. Today is Part I - stay tuned for Part II tomorrow! 

Do it Best Corp. is truly a great American success story. What began with little more than an idea in 1945 has grown into a multi-billion dollar company. Its success is due to a unique tradition of hard work, innovation, and determination.

Do it Best Corp. began as the vision of Arnold Gerberding. Born in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1900, Gerberding worked in the hardware business from the time he graduated from high school in 1919. Working as a buyer, he faced many challenges and frustrations getting products at good prices to compete with the popular and rapidly growing catalog and retail chains like Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Montgomery Ward.

Gerberding was intrigued by the local farm co-ops and started investigating how the co-op concept -- where many stores buying together could get better deals from vendors than they could separately – might work in the hardware industry. In the late 1930s, he immersed himself in developing the concept for a new co-op that would make independent retailers  the company’s shareholders who would receive a share of the company’s profits as a yearly rebate.

On June 28, 1945, Gerberding assembled the first meeting of the Hardware Wholesalers, Inc. (HWI) hardware co-op. By the end of that year, the co-op included nearly 100 members. Ten acres of property for the company’s headquarters on Nelson Road in New Haven, Ind., was acquired shortly thereafter but, due to building restrictions and rationing resulting from World War II, the headquarters was not completed until May 1948.

After building HWI from merely an idea to a major company in the hardware distribution industry, founder Arnold Gerberding retired in 1967. The growth that occurred in this time was phenomenal; HWI expanded to over 200 members. In HWI’s first year in 1946, sales were $171,000; in 1967, sales were over $35 million and rebates to members were nearly $1.2 million. In the late 1960s, HWI faced challenges from discount and chain stores. To keep the company growing and moving forward, HWI turned to Don Wolf as the second president of HWI.

Wolf, who had been with HWI since 1947 when he began work in the warehouse building shelves out of used lumber, had great vision for growing the co-op. Under his direction, the company opened distribution centers around the U.S. to serve members across the country and around the world more efficiently.

During this time, HWI introduced a departure from the traditional hardware store called the home center – dubbed the Do it center -- which incorporated bright colors and signs to create a warm, exciting shopping experience. The stores looked bigger and products were easier to find, and the test stores that opened in 1981 averaged a 50 percent sales increase in the first year. 

Find out the rest of the Do it Best story on tomorrow's blog! 

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