Central Lumber & Hardware

Posted: August 21, 2023
Category: Paint & Sundries Feature

Montana customers travel over 100 miles to their preferred destination for paint

The small town of Harlowton Montana, population about 1,000, sits beneath a bright blue sky framed by big snowy mountains. It was founded in 1900, as a station stop on the Montana railroad, and was named for Richard A Harlow, the company’s president. The state’s biggest city, Billings, is about 90 minutes away. With so few people in town, it takes someone with a pioneering spirit to successfully operate a hardware store. Jeff Sell, owner of Central Lumber & Hardware, is that person. The Do it Best store is a one-stop- shop for DIYers and contractors. Product assortments include power tools and accessories, farm and ranch supplies, and apparel—plus, a paint department so special, it attracts customers from over 100 miles away.

So, what does it take to become the preferred destination for paint? “Hands-down, it’s the quality of our paint products, our customer service, and our knowledgeable staff that goes above and beyond for each customer,” says Jeff. “We also have a great selection of paint sundries and have a good inventory of paint so customers can get the job done.” The store has always generated robust sales in the paint department due to its reputation among Central Montanans. They know if they can’t find it at Central Lumber & Hardware, they won’t find it anywhere.

However, business really took off when Jeff and his team relocated the department to the front of the store and added The Color Bar.  Foot traffic increased and people began arriving who lived 100 miles away. Jeff says they have a lot of repeat customers. “Buying a quality paint from a small, reputable hometown hardware store that’s been around for 40 years—a place people know and trust—offers neighbors and friends an enjoyable, knowledgeable experience to help them complete their projects every time.”

The paint team is ready to assist customers with selecting the right paint finish, brushes, or other sundries. It’s not uncommon for people to come in and ask for associates by their first names. While the idea of trading up to a better-quality paint is familiar to those selling paint, customers tend to require an explanation. “When our customers are asked which quality of paint they want, “good, better, or best, most often it’s the better (Valspar Medallion Plus—both interior and exterior). Another good seller in our paint department is spray paint because we have a large selection of colors.”

Jeff, and his team are committed to building lasting relationships with customers and delivering exceptional service. The local community, contractors, and nearby townspeople depend on the staff’s knowledge and expertise to make essential decisions about products for their projects. Even the most successful independent retailers can benefit from Jeff’s advice. “Sell a quality brand from a company such as Valspar—a supplier that stands behind their products and offers top notch customer service to the dealer. Invest in a color-match computer for cross-referencing other brands of paint and for storing customer records. Most importantly, invest in training for your paint department staff, and don’t forget that customer service!”