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Home Grown

Business

: Hubbards Ace Hardware & Home Centers

Owners

: Bob, Mark, Dan, Paul and Leslie Seus

Ages

: 44, 43, 42, 38 and 33

Address

: 335 E. Main St., 2655 S. Pacific Highway, and 2830 Crater Lake Highway, Medford.

— Phone

: 773-7778

Employees:

46 to 54 depending on the season.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it?

Retail hardware, building materials, lawnmower sales and service. Hubbards has been in Medford since 1884, making us the oldest Hardware Store & oldest continually operating business in Jackson County. But contrary to some, I have not been here that long. The Seus family has owned Hubbards since 1988. We opened a store on South Pacific Highway in March of 1990 and then opened the Crater Lake Avenue store in September of 2000.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?

15 years.

What inspired you to go into this line of work?

The biggest inspiration was and continues to be a lot of hungry kids as well as a sick love of paint stains on our clothing. We had heard that the restaurant business was the toughest to get into.

What's the toughest business decision you've made?

Employee issues are always tough, whether it's to advance or keep them or let them go. Anything involving someone's life is difficult. We also have struggled with expansion. How many light bulb outlets does the Rogue Valley really need?

Who are your competitors?

Virtually everyone today crosses over into hardware in some form or another. Supermarkets, department stores, even 7-11. Our biggest competition is obviously Lowe's, however they help us tremendously by drawing and sending customers to us. The other lumber yards, paint stores and plumbing supply stores are also competitors.

How do you define success for your business?

Let's face it ' sales increases and margins are what drive our business. However, I get the most satisfaction from customer comments such as: Your service is great or The big stores won't help me, thank you so much for trying so hard. We pride ourselves on customer service and as long as we don't lose sight of that we will continue to be successful.

What are your goals?

Our goal is to be large enough to compete, but not so big that we don't call our customer by name. We cannot lose track of why they come to us in the first place, as owners we must be available and listen to our customers. I think when we get too big they will let us know. Ace Hardware corporate has a really good expansion plan to help multiple-store owners into other markets and locations. We're starting to look at it. We just don't know where.

What training or education did you need?

Whatever schooling or training I've had, it wasn't enough. Retail has changed so much, The Costcos and Wal-Marts of the world have seen to that. My on-the-job training has been immense. I make mistakes every day, but hopefully learn from them. The one thing I am confident in is that our kind of business ' service rather than warehouse ' is coming back. People are tired of walking into stores and not finding qualified service. Customers want value, but they also realize their time is important and don't want to wander around a warehouse looking for a hiding employee that doesn't know anything anyway.

Your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

If you have a good idea and plan well, you can be successful. My dad always says You have to treat a business as if it were one of your kids. So we've got that going for us. In today's market a small business has to fill a niche. You cannot open a tennis shoe store and figure people will show up. You must give the customer a compelling reason to come to you.

Robert Seus owns three Hubbards Ace Hardware stores in the Rogue Valley, including one in downtown Medford that claims the title of the state?s oldest hardware outlet. Those are hardwood floors, not concrete, he?s kneeling on. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven