Merchant of the Week: Do-it-yourselfer JoAnn Virag of Millwood Hardware
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
by Rob Greenstein
Last week, I spoke with Millwood Hardware owner JoAnn Virag, who took over the store from her father in the late 80’s.
(1) How long have you and your hardware store been a member of our community?
Millwood Hardware has been a member of the community since 1968. Without giving away my age, I’ve worked here my whole life, I took the store over from my dad in the late 1980’s and have been running it ever since.
(2) At the risk of being politically incorrect, I think it’s safe to say that you’re in a field mostly dominated by men, what sparked your interest in this area?
Yes, this is a field that is still dominated by men. Luckily for me, that did not stop my father from involving me in the business. I loved working at the store, whenever needed. This included after school, snow days, vacations and summer breaks. Anyone who has ever worked in a family business can relate. My hardware knowledge and interest comes from helping my father build our family home on his time off. I loved helping him hands-on. Since he worked six days a week, this construction project went on for quite some time. Then when I bought my first home, I intended to just do a little remodeling but ended up gutting the house. I truly enjoy the hands-on aspect of fixing and/or building something. I love when a customer comes in and asks for help. I’m able to base it on first-hand experiences.
(3) You are next to a New Castle landmark—Rocky’s—does your location help business?
Being next to Rocky’s Deli definitely helps! Since they are such a landmark, many times when people call for directions, we can easily use Rocky’s as a point of reference. We often get customers who come in to wander as their order is being filled.
(4) What makes your store different than a box store like Home Depot?
I think what differentiates us from the big box stores is our customer service, our friendliness and our knowledge of hardware. We try to greet each customer that comes in, see what they need help with and then guide them towards a solution. In our 44 years of being a part of this community, we have developed a lot of friendships. But I also hope we have developed a reputation that you can come to us with your project, no matter how big or how small, and we will have what you need and show you how to use all of it. I frequently hear customers comment about the wide variety of merchandise we carry. We also try to keep the store well organized and clean, making it an welcoming environment. And, of course, our staff is knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. Over the summer, we hope to do an interior remodel. This will give us a face lift and hopefully find room for new product lines.
(5) Does your inventory change a lot with the seasons?
Absolutely. We are a seasonal business. Around the holidays, we carry holiday decorations, and everything you need to spruce up your house for guests. During the winter, there is usually a need for ice melt, snow shovels, and fireplace supplies. Spring time brings all the merchandise you need for spring clean-up and home repair. We carry items for yard work including grass seed, fertilizers, hoses, sprinklers and gardening tools. And for your barbecuing we carry Weber grills, parts and accessories. If the Weber grill you’re looking for is not in the store, we can order the model you want. The fall is for all those projects you put off all summer long, because you were relaxing and enjoying. Projects that need tending before the cold winter hits. We also carry a wide variety of homewares throughout the year.
(6) What’s the benefit of your affiliation with True Value?
By being a member of True Value, we’re able to purchase from their warehouse instead of direct from the manufacturers. This allows us to carry a wider breadth of merchandise. It also enables us to get more competitive pricing as True Value has the buying power of 4,000 stores. We are now a proud carrier of Benjamin Moore paints, and, of course, we carry True Value paints. They will also provide professional merchandisers to help with the layout of the merchandise. They even have a store design division. In fact, they are drawing up our remodeling plans.
(7) What do you think the town could do to make conditions better for business in Millwood?
I love being a part of a small community—this community! But sometimes I wish New Castle would put more emphasis on Millwood, not just Chappaqua. I feel we have a lot to offer, and sometimes we’re forgotten.
(8) Do you do a lot of special orders?
We do a lot of special orders. Unfortunately, we’re confined by our space. The store is about 5,000 square feet and we have over 7,000 square feet of storage. As I said earlier, we try to carry a wide range of products and a blend of what our customers are looking for. But only so much will fit. And this is another advantage of being a member of True Value, we can order anything out of their catalog. If it’s in stock, we’ll have it in days. The customer comes in, and if it’s not what they want, we’ll simply ship it back—no obligations. Hopefully the remodel will help us create more shelf space.
(9) Any special discounts for NewCastleNOW readers who mention this article?
NewcastleNOW readers are welcome to stop by, say hello, and if they mention this article, they will receive a free 25 foot tape measure, while supplies last.
235 Saw Mill River Rd
Millwood, N.Y. 10546
Hours: Mon-Fri 7:45 am - 6:00 pm
Sat: 7:45 am - 5:00 pm
Visit NCNOW.org’s Business Section to see other “Merchant of the Week” pieces by Rob Greenstein.