Hubbard's Hardware will become part of employee-owned Dazey's Supply Jan. 2

After three decades of running the state's oldest hardware store, founded in 1884, the Seus family decided it was time to move on. However, the five siblings who have owned the 133-year-old since 1988 weren't about to turn the reins over to just anyone.

With none of the 29 next-generation nephews and nieces desiring to take on the venture, Bob Seus, the eldest of four brothers working at the firm, put word out last year that Hubbard's was for sale. Such things set off rumors of every color. While Seus played it close to the vest, it took months of discussions, negotiations and legal work to turn a family-owned enterprise over to an employee-owned company.

On Jan. 2, Hubbard's will become part of Dazey's Supply, a Humboldt County, California, building supply and hardware operation that converted to an employee stock ownership plan when its founder retired in 2015.

Medford is one of two locations where Dazey's Supply takes control in January. The other is Willow Creek Hardware, east of McKinleyville, California. Adding 30 employees in Medford and 15 in Willow Creek to its 83 employees in Redway and Garberville, Dazey's Supply will have about 130 employees.

"The ESOP is what made Dazey enticing to us," Seus said. "It allows our employees to stay, they will become owners, and that was very attractive to me. It's something that not only helps current employees but future employees."

While running the company was relatively easy for the siblings, succession was another matter. The siblings have 29 children, ranging in age from 36 to 3.

"Our kids are smarter than us and didn't want to get into retail business," Seus said. "All of them have worked in the store over the years. But it would've been very convoluted if some of the family, and not others, would've been involved."

Ultimately, he said, no one stepped up, and the decision, "probably over turkey dinner," was made to find an outside buyer.

Hubbard's has been part of the Do it Best cooperative since leaving Ace in 2012. Seus put out word through the buying group that Hubbard's was for sale a couple of years ago. A number of potential suitors called, he said. "Some serious, and some not so serious."

Darren Tomasini, president and CEO of Dazey's, heard about Hubbard's from a Do it Best sales representative.

"He said if we were looking to expand to Oregon, there was a place in Medford we might want to check out," Tomasini said.

Dazey's Supply was in expansion mode and soon followed up.

"We see eye to eye on a lot of things, and there is a lot of potential," Tomasini said.

Seus, who visited Dazey's Supply with his father, Bob Sr., said he was impressed with the atmosphere.

"I was excited to see how well run it was, the way the employees looked out for each other, and the camaraderie," he said. "One of the biggest things for someone working for hourly wages is that if they do well, at the end of the year the company is successful."

Dazey's revenue is nearing $50 million. Combined with Hubbard's $7 million to $8 million and Willow Creek Hardware, Dazey's may soon have $60 million revenue in its sights.

In 1988, Medford was a town without a Walmart, Home Depot or Lowes.

But as the national chains invaded the market, Hubbard's had to rethink its approach.

"As people's shopping habits changed, we had to, too," Seus said.

The new operators are committed to that notion and to improving on the expectations, he said.

The Redway, California-based business was founded by Stephen Dazey in the early 1970s. After Dazey mulled his succession options, he elected the ESOP route. In September 2016, Dazey's Supply became employee-owned, with former general manager Tomasini ascending to president and CEO.

"It made the most sense to sell to the employees," Tomasini said. "It took a year and a half, and was quite complicated. We spent a lot of money to make it happen, with attorneys, appraisers and accountants, but we were very happy (with the result)."

Both Dazey's Supply and Hubbard's are top Honda Power equipment dealers in their region, while Hubbard's is the top Husqvarna power tool dealer in the Northwest, something Tomasini hopes to capitalize on down the road.

Mark Seus, who has overseen Hubbard's lucrative lawnmower department, will remain with the business. But his title will change from vice president to power equipment department manager.

New signage will retain Hubbard's name, Tomasini said.

"We want to keep Hubbard's good name in the community," he said. "But we'll incorporate our name into it as well."

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31