One on One with…Kerry & Al Hayes

HAYES TRUE VALUE celebrates 50 years in business this year. Co-owners Kerry (left) and Al Hayes continue the tradition left by their parents, Al and Betty. (Rivet Photo)

HAYES TRUE VALUE celebrates 50 years in business this year. Co-owners Kerry (left) and Al Hayes continue the tradition left by their parents, Al and Betty. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

When Al and Betty Hayes decided to fill a void left in town with the closure of Fitton Hardware (one of Bridgton’s longest continuous enterprises back in that era, 25 years) by opening a new store, a shovel cost under $1, gas was 32 cents and a first-class stamp was 5 cents.

While the cost of a shovel, as well as most basic hardware essentials, has darted upward over the past 50 years, the same spirit and dedication to customer service and community involvement Al and Betty incorporated in their business venture still exists today through their sons, Al and Kerry.

Hayes True Value celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Several special events will be held next month, including a Paint Contractor breakfast, Consumer Day, free popcorn, bounce house, Dunk-A-Hayes opportunity, and a bucket sale, with a certain percentage of sales being donated to Bridgton Recreation Advancement Group (BRAG).

The News went One on One with co-owners Al and Kerry Hayes:

BN. Celebrating 50 years, what have been the keys to success for Hayes True Value Hardware?

Allen: I believe the keys to success to be the same as any business. Give the customer what they need with good service at a fair price and they will come back.

Kerry: The keys to our success have been the friendly atmosphere, our community involvement, and the fact that we try to provide for customers and have earned their loyalty.

BN. Talk about your early memories of your parents operating a hardware store?

Allen: My parents let me rent bicycles on Sundays, as we were closed. I earned 50 cents for a single and $1 for a tandem bike. This was when the store was under the movie theater in the Brookside building and I would watch the Red Sox on a 12-inch black and white TV. One day, the Crane brothers from Harrison came in and rented a tandem to ride to Portland. They are twins and fast cross-country runners. When they came back, I asked if it was hard going all that way. They said, “No, but you should have seen the look on the guy’s face in the car when we passed him on Packard’s Hill.” My parents gave us each jobs to do in the store, but schoolwork came first.

Kerry: I was eight years old when they started and I pretty much grew up in the store. Dad was on the floor and Mom did the bookwork. We were offered the ability to work, but we never were pressured to continue in it.

BN. How did your parents get into this business?

Allen: My father drove a tractor-trailer truck for Western Auto for about 15 years. He wanted a store of his own. It was going to be Bridgton, Maine, or Orleans, Vt. He sold our house in Massachusetts, and our summer cottage on Cape Cod, loaded everything into the station wagon and a little trailer and we headed to Maine.

Kerry: Mom and Dad thought that this would be a better environment to raise the four of us.

BN. What did they enjoy the most?

Allen: They enjoyed their friendships with customers. Dad especially enjoyed Tuesdays. We received freight every Tuesday and for him, it was like Christmas to open and tag each item. Though Mom kept the books for the store, I don’t know if she enjoyed it.

Kerry: I think they enjoyed family involvement and the community. Dad was a member of the Lions’ Club and Mom served on the Women’s Guild at St. Joseph Church.

BN. What were some of the main points they impressed upon you regarding running a business?

Allen: To treat the customer fairly. One time, Milt Allen needed a new TV. My father told him to take the one on the shelf and put it on his bill. About a year later, Milt was fixing our boiler and he took the price of the TV off the bill. Another customer told us of the time when he moved to town and came into the store to get some things. He realized he’d left his wallet home. He gave my father his name and later came back to pay.

Kerry: There are two key points: Customer service; and offer a good product at a fair price.

BN. Did you always think you would follow in their footsteps, or did you consider other career options?

Allen: I majored in Political Science at the University of Maine at Orono, but no job came calling so when I graduated, I headed back to the store. It was slow in Bridgton at that time, so I went to work for Western Auto, setting up stores throughout New England and New York. I came back when Dad had a stroke.

Kerry: Probably so, but we were offered the chance to pursue other interests. I went to tech school for auto body repair. For several years, I worked as an insurance appraiser.

BN. How has it worked out being brothers and co-owning a business?

Allen: It has its ups and downs, but Kerry has traits that I don’t have. He’s very good at planning where products should go. He sends out bills and I pay bills. We try to talk to each other as much as possible and keep each other in the loop on each new project.

Kerry: It’s been pretty good. Growing up in the business, you tend to learn to get along with each other and use each other’s talents to complement the other’s abilities. Sometimes, it makes it easier to bounce ideas off of each other.

BN. In this day and age of big box stores, what has to happen for a family-owned business to compete?

Allen: The family-owned business extends from the work that we do, to our children, Kerry’s son Ryan and son-in-law Jon, and my sons, Shep and Patrick (the latter in the summer), to the community, including our loyal local customers, snowbirds and second-home owners who come back year after year.

Kerry: We have to try to offer better service along with a product at a fair price.

BN. You have undergone some major changes from opening a new store to expanding. Talk about the benefits and what do you see in the store’s future?

Allen: Many people remember the old store across from the library, with its creaky floor, tin ceilings and how we packed everything in. We needed more room and couldn’t get it at our downtown location. In 2000, we built the new store and went from 3,500 square feet to 16,000 square feet. It was a big jump, but it was something that Kerry and I knew the community needed. We added Just Ask Rental and increased every department. With this came more challenges, more help, more training. In 2014, we added 3,500 more square feet. We redesigned the footprint of the store and added Ben Moore paint and now we have Husqvarna. In the future, I see more growth of the lines that we carry and more use of electronics in ordering and sales.

Kerry: Our folks started out with an approximately 1,100-square-foot store. As we said earlier, they expanded to a larger store and we’ve done the same. We can now offer a larger inventory for our customer base. We have expanded and revamped departments and we will continue to expand the rental side of the business.

BN. Finally, what do you enjoy most about your work?

Allen: I enjoy coming to work and seeing the effects of helping the customers rub off on other employees. When we started, our parents had one employee. Now, we have 20. I also enjoy what we’ve been able to do to help the community. Each of our special summer sales has helped a deserving charity (Lions, Boy Scouts, Special Olympics and this year, BRAG). What I love most is that our family has always helped other families.

Kerry: I enjoy working with each other and our staff. It’s kind of like a big family. And now we have Ryan and Shep involved. Pat joins us on his summer breaks. In the past, my wife, Betty, and both of my daughters, Sara and Leslie, worked with us. Leslie’s husband, Jon, is also a part of our team. I foresee it continuing as a family business with the next generation of kids soon to get their chance to be involved. We also have a great staff of loyal employees, who seem as much a part of our family. As I said earlier, we grew up in the business and it became a way of life. I have enjoyed my kids’ and family’s involvement. They also got that chance.

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