Hardware Retailing

SEP 2016

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | September 2016 48 At the start of his career in hardware, these opportunities mostly consisted of odd jobs around Kief Hardware, sweeping floors and cleaning displays at the 5,000-square-foot store, which had served the bayou community for more than 40 years. Owners Jerome and Lola Cantrelle quickly became impressed with James' work ethic. When their own son left the business, they made the bold decision to promote the 18-year-old James to manager. "I'm sure they were a little uneasy about it, but I think they trusted me enough at that point to give me a chance," he says. In fact, the Cantrelles had enough faith in James to broker a deal with their young manager. They would allow him to take a percentage of his salary and invest it toward buying the business—a deal that seemed too good for him to pass up. "At that time, I wasn't really even sure if college was going to be the right choice for me," he says. "I was enjoying working in the store and was putting in 60- and 70-hour weeks and loving it. I couldn't pass up this opportunity to own my own business." Shortly after the deal was struck, those wheels in James' head began turning. So many ideas. So many plans for how he could turn this sleepy little store into something much bigger, much more successful, much more fun. At this time, James was thinking more about a career than a job, eager to build a life with his then- girlfriend, now wife Anna Marie. One of the first big success stories came with an unlikely addition to the inventory of a 60-plus-year- old hardware store—paintball supplies. When James suggested to the owners that they add the products, they were skeptical. "It was going to cost about $1,500 to bring the products in," James says. "I was so sure we could make it work that I told the owners I would pay for it out of my own pocket. Eventually, they said yes." At the time, Kief Hardware had sales of about $400,000 per year. Within a short time, the store was producing $100,000 annually in sales of paintball supplies alone. "After that, they trusted me a lot more," he says. And his ideas kept on coming: high-end grills, chimineas and commercial supplies. Within three years, the store's sales had doubled. James was barely 21 years old. "It really felt like everything I did back then turned into a big hit," he says. Some of those hits included the addition of a commercial sales division to serve the area's shrimpers, shipyards, farmers and factories. Eventually, this division would help the small Kief Hardware double sales. In just five years, James had taken Kief Hardware's sales from $400,000 to $1.2 million. He now owned the business and had doubled the size of the salesfloor and added three additional locations, including a new flagship location in Cut Off, Louisiana. During this time, Cabirac was also recognized as one of NRHA's Young Retailers of the Year. A few years later, Cabirac would earn this award a second time, becoming the only retailer in the award's 20-year history to do so. James Cabirac's flagship location in Cut Off, Louisiana, boasts more than 30,000 square feet, and he uses a lot of that space to explore new niches.

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