09 Jul Member Profile: Jamie Gentner at Center Hardware
For most of us, these are unprecedented times, but for Center Hardware, with its roots going back to 1880 this is technically the second time the business has faced a global pandemic. We checked in with Jamie Gentner who runs the 17,000-square-foot commercial and industrial-focused store in San Francisco to see how Covid-19 has affected operations.
Q: What has had the most significant impact on your business from Covid-19?
A: Most of our commercial customers were shut down so we had to adjust our staffing and store hours. Workweeks were reduced and we are attempting to participate in California’s Work Sharing Program but nothing has come through. It was an absolute disaster of an archaic paper implementation process, we ended up just giving up after our PPP came through.
Q: How have operations changed?
A: We have a list of protocols that protect ourselves and our customers that are clearly communicated. We are limiting the number of customers allowed into the store to ten, limiting the number of customers in an aisle to one, and encouraging alternative means of shopping that don’t require a store visit.
Q: What happens if someone doesn’t follow the protocols?
A: We have been lucky in that most customers understand but occasionally someone will get irritated or feel they are too restrictive. On the rare occasion we do have a problem we diffuse it by being blunt and honest about the situation.
Q: Have you added services like curbside pickup or online ordering?
A: We do offer curbside pickup, will-call, and delivery but aren’t doing any online ordering. We do have a strong online presence and find online platforms to be highly effective at communicating with our customers. Our residential customers are using delivery more than before but order pickup isn’t too much of a concern for most.
Q: How is the supply chain holding up?
A: For everyday products, we are seeing fill rates drop but mostly, like everyone else, we are struggling with high demand items and proprietary products.
Q: Did you apply for the PPP?
A: Yes, our first application didn’t make it to the funding stage but we were approved in the second stage. With the PPP money, I was able to cover the staff for the hours that were reduced.