Nailing Down Service
By Karen Ott Mayer | Photography courtesy of Adam Mitchell
Celebrating 10 years in business, Hernando’s Complete Home Center specializes in the nuts and bolts of knowledge and service.
When 16-year-old Tom Bradley started working at Central Hardware in Memphis, Tenn., he accidentally found his calling and life career.
“I decided college wasn’t for me and I got a job there during the summer,” Bradley says.
That one summer turned into 28 years at the iconic Midtown store where he became store manager. When the store closed, a chapter in both the city’s life and his own came to an end. From there, he joined Hyman Builders Supply, working for another 19 years, gaining even more expertise.
“I’ve been doing this work all my life,” he says.
One day, Bradley happened to walk into the former Minor Brothers Hardware store in Hernando, Miss., and had a fleeting thought. “I remember thinking I’d love to have this place.”
With all of his experience, Bradley imagined how he could transform the store, focusing particularly on his unique brand of customer service and merchandising. Several years later, the business became available, and he and wife Cherie sat down and talked.
“We weighed the options and decided the time was right, so we bought it and haven’t looked back,” he remembers.
Today, the Bradleys’ award-winning store has become a recognizable and reliable brand for the community. Complete Home Center employees 24 people, including teenagers and retirees. Bradley particularly enjoys leading with a defined sense of purpose that focuses on watching people, as well as his business, grow. Unlike the big box stores where Bradley also worked, Complete Home Center prides itself on tailored service and knowledge.
“My folks know what they do and they know it well,” he says. “We greet our customers and then help them. You’ll never wander around looking for someone.”
That dedication to service resulted in recognition from industry peers, such as the 2014 Beacon Award for Retailers from The Hardware Connection and two back-to-back DeSoto’s Best Awards from the DeSoto Times Tribune in 2018 and 2019.
When the Bradleys decided to purchase the store in 2010, they dedicated all of their resources and time to ensuring its success. And they knew their first goal was to win back the community’s confidence.
“It took Hernando a minute to accept the fact that we had merchandise because of the former store’s set up,” he says. “We also worked hard to make women customers feel comfortable and welcome.”
Bradley says the store has tailored services for women who constitute nearly 25 percent of his customer base.
“We see widows and singles needing advice or guidance with a project or problem. Or, many times a woman is on an errand for her husband and acts as the go-between,” Bradley says. “We also offer small signature services like lamp repair, pipe and glass cutting, and key cutting.”
The store has experienced continual growth for the last 10 years, and over that time, Bradley says the community has grown accustomed to its presence. “Now, people are shocked when we don’t have something,” he says with a chuckle.
Service drives Bradley’s core philosophy. “We have a store, not a department. That means our employees are free to help anyone and aren’t restricted to just one area like with big box stores,” he says.
Accessibility, however, doesn’t dilute his team’s knowledge.
“I have employees who may be retired from another industry and wanted to go back to work,” he says. “We have employees with expertise in painting and refinishing, welding, pipe fitting, building maintenance, and electrical.”
Bradley also likes hiring teenagers, especially those from farm or agricultural families. “The kids from farms are used to working and repairing stuff. Here, they can lay a foundation for perhaps a future career in a related area. I have former employees who have gone on to medical supply, welding trade schools, and one that started a wrought iron fence company.”
The Bradleys faced another big decision recently when they decided to expand. With the Fred’s store closing next door to his building, Bradley took advantage of the opportunity and added 7,000 square feet.
“We expanded the lumber section, adding more than 30 types of lumber and several hundred different hardware and tool items,” he says.
The store continues to sell the popular Big Green Egg, offering six sizes. “The ceramic holds heat and it’s all-natural flavor.”
Complete Home Center is also a Benjamin Moore paint dealer and a Midwest Fasteners destination store.
“We offer more than 120 linear feet of nuts and bolts,” Bradley says, adding that they keep outdated and older parts that can be hard to find.
Unlike other hardware stores in small towns which close at noon on Saturday, Complete Home Center is open all day on Saturday until 6 p.m. Considered an essential business during the pandemic, Complete Home Center remained open and took all the necessary precautions.
“I understand how hard this [the pandemic] was for small businesses,” he adds.
For someone who has spent his whole life in the industry, Bradley’s views haven’t changed.
“It’s still fun,” he insists. “The store is like a playground for adults and we enjoy helping people.”