Here’s to Jim Black, a small-town guy with a big heart and a simple idea that made a tremendous impact.
He lives in Chagrin Falls, an apologetic-sounding suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, where families have roots dating back to the early 1800s. The Shutt clan is one of those hardy groups, running a small Main-street hardware store for the past 72 years. Business for small retailers in Chagrin Falls just isn’t what it used to be, what with the big box stores and the outlying competition.
That’s where Jim Black comes in. He grew up in Chagrin and remembered the regular visits to the hardware store, where a young lad – with a handful of change and a note from his mother – could buy a package of BBs for his BB gun. It occurred to Mr. Black that the long-term local enterprise could use a little support.
He sent emails to 40 friends, asking them to join him on January 21st in making a shopping expedition to the store, and to come prepared to spend at least $20. Some of the email recipients forwarded the message to their own correspondents and when the date arrived, there was a line waiting outside the door at opening time.
It was like one of the so-called ‘flash mobs’ that descend on a location through social media engineering, except the activity involved browsing and buying instead of singing and dancing. There were lines at the cash register all day; all of those standing with their intended purchases were patient and smiling all the while.
There was no pepper-spray to obtain a shopping advantage. There were no Occupy Chagrin placards. No one was arrested.
When family member Steve Shutts finally slowed down enough to catch his breath, he could only shake his head and smile. It was a day to remember in the local hardware business.
What started as a simple idea made a difference in the lives of a family trying to keep pace with the evolving nature of retail sales in America. For those who took part, it was a relatively painless way to say ‘Thanks!’ for the many years the Shutt family has endured, ready with a box of nails, a plumber’s helper, or a three-quarter-inch gizzywhatzit. Some shoppers found items they needed, like thumbtacks, hammers and nails. Others bought Ohio State desk lamps and stuffed monkey dolls. It was a banner day for Chagrin Hardware, and everyone left happy.
So here’s to the man with the simple plan that worked out well. The world could use a lot more men like Jim Black.