News / USA

    Woman-Owned Hardware Business Thrives in US Capital Area

    Woman-Owned Hardware Business Thrives in US Capital Areai
    X
    July 24, 2014 7:57 PM
    More and more American women are starting businesses in fields that are traditionally associated with men. VOA’s Julie Taboh caught up with one of those women to find out why she entered -- and how she successfully competed in -- the hardware business.

    Gina Schaefer never expected to get into the hardware business.  But when she and her husband bought an apartment that needed to be fixed up and there were no local hardware stores, she decided she’d open up one of her own.

    “I always wanted to own my own business... so the opportunity just presented itself... and I said, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’” Schaefer said.

    That was in 2003. Today she owns nine thriving hardware stores in and around the Washington D.C. area, serving a total of 1,200 customers a day.

    'Where's the guy?'

    But starting a business – especially in a field usually dominated by men – had its challenges.

    “We laugh about it in hindsight, thinking about some of the guys that would come in that would want some product help and would ask: 'Is there a man that I can talk to?'  'Where’s the guy in plumbing?’ ‘Where’s the guy that runs the store?’” she recalled, adding “We also joked that if you go to a convention and you walk down a convention aisle, the vendors don’t talk to the women that are there.”

    But over time, that gender bias dissipated.

    “There are lots of folks who come in – male and female – who have never had to fix their toilet, for example, and they just want advice on how to do it," Schaefer said. "And if you can make them comfortable and be confident in that answer, they’re not worried about whether or not you’re a man or a woman."

    She credits her success to a number of factors.

    Each of Schaefer’s stores is affiliated with Ace Hardware, a 90-year-old, multi-national U.S. corporation that lends its name to independent hardware stores. Schaefer says that gives them credibility, and more.

    “So they give us that buying power, and then they wrap a whole lot of services around it, whether it be training, store layouts, planning, financial organization; all types of programs that they wrap around the co-op.”

    She also credits her employees for her business success. She said she pays above average wages and provides health insurance and other benefits.

    “What we really decided is that we wanted to be a great place to work,” she said. “We wanted people to be able to raise their children by working here. We wanted them to enjoy coming to work because they knew that their employers really valued their skill set.”

    People make the difference

    Gina Schaefer talks with employee Brian Cole.Gina Schaefer talks with employee Brian Cole.
    x
    Gina Schaefer talks with employee Brian Cole.
    Gina Schaefer talks with employee Brian Cole.

    One of those valued employees is Christina Amaya who has been with the company for six years.

    “I like it here," she said. "They respect you. They’re very considerate of everything, of you as a person, instead of you as just an employee, and I like that very much because it makes you feel important.”

    And happy employees translate into satisfied customers, like Chris Bolanos who visits the store on a regular basis.

    “I think I come back more for the customer service than anything else,” he said. “Products you can probably buy anywhere. But customer service you can’t replace.”

    Schaefer hopes to open in more locations as the demand for urban hardware stores continues to grow.

    You May Like

    Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora