| Apr 10, 2008

Feature Article - April 10, 2008

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Feature Article -April 10, 2008 Service Still Key for Lookout Home Hardwareby Jeff Green

Rick Kellar was born and raised in Plevna, but when he was a young man he went away to college and ended up getting a job with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Forest Management. After five years he decided “Government wasn’t the place for me.”

He asked for a leave from the ministry and when he couldn’t get one, he left his job and “spent a couple of years traveling around the world with a back pack.”

Eventually he decided it was time to establish some roots so he headed back to Plevna with no real idea about his future plans.

He put his forestry training into practice and started a logging business in Plevna.

In 1986, a business opportunity presented itself. Stan Mika owned Mika hardware in Sharbot Lake and had satellite stores in Arden and Plevna. Rick Kellar took over the Plevna store, which was located in a two-room schoolhouse on a hill overlooking the hamlet.

He immediately did two things with the store.

“It had been called Lookout Hardware before Stan Mika owned it, so we re-named it, and we immediately turned it into a year-round business. In the first winter we opened three days a week, but after one year it became a six day a week business,” Rick Kellar recalls.

By the time he opened Lookout Hardware, Rick Kellar had married his wife Gina, who was from Plevna originally, but had been working in Toronto and visiting home on weekends and holidays.

To find work for Gina back home, the Kellars opened another business, the “Crooked Nook” lunch bar. After a couple of years running the logging business, the lumber store, and the restaurant, something had to give, and the company sold the Crooked Nook, whichich now exists as the North of 7 Restaurant, Freshmart and gas bar.

In 1988, Lookout moved to its current location on the junction of Hwy 506 and Mountain Road.

“There was a two-storey home on the property, which we renovated and turned into a store. Early in 1992 we built a 1700 square foot addition, and in 2002 we did a 3200 square foot addition.”

Also in 2002, Lookout switched from the TimbrMart buying group to Home Hardware, and a store manager was hired, freeing up some of Rick Kellar’s time.

“We wanted the Home Hardware line, and it has worked out. It provides the same price on hardware that people receive at the larger Home Hardware stores, which is a big plus for us, because it gives the customer comfort over the pricing.”

Kellar says that each year he has been in business he has seen a steady growth.

“We don’t see huge peaks and valleys, just continual progression,” he said. He attributes the businesses success to the increasing demand for building supplies in the surrounding region as people seek to upgrade old family cottages and build new homes, and to the staff complement that has been built up over the years.

Aside from selling lumber, which is delivered within a 30 mile radius free of charge, and hardware, Lookout also carries cottage and home packages.

But it is service that has been the real backbone of the business.

“The first step is to recognize that someone has come into the store, and we need to appreciate that opportunity,” Rick Kellar says, and that is something the staff at Lookout always keep in mind.

“Most of our staff, with one exception, have been trained on the job. Most arrived with little experience, and one of them has been here for 20 years; most of the rest have been here five years or more. I think that it’s a good thing that they’ve been trained on the job.”

A business like Lookout Hardware can only survive with the support of both the permanent residents and the seasonal residents.

“Our business has been built on customer service, a good location, great staff, and a little bit of luck,” Kellar said.

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