Mike Brackin sees HomCo Lumber & Hardware, the business his father started 42 years ago, as much more than a hardware store.
It’s a supporter of local nonprofits, an organizer of community events and a great employer.
“I’m responsible for 95 employees and I’m responsible for their livelihoods, so my goal is to continue to grow in this community and continue giving back,” Brackin said. “The moment we can’t give back and be important to this community is the day that we’ll close up and leave.”
It appears that HomCo is still achieving that goal, as Flagstaff voters chose it as this year’s Best Home Improvement Store.
Beyond HomCo’s selection of everything from power tools to scented candles, the store has become known for its community fundraising efforts. Its annual Ladies Night Out event, which includes a now-famous Carhartt fashion show, raises about $15,000 for Sharon Manor, a local transitional shelter for victims of domestic violence. The night has also become a fun event for women to come socialize, catch up with each other and try out free food, wine and beer, chair massages and product demos. The event has become such a hit that other businesses have followed HomCo’s model with their own ladies’ nights.
HomCo also hosts a horseshoe tournament that most recently raised $20,000 for the Dawson Merrick Children’s Foundation. The Boys and Girls Club, Little League, local high schools and Camp Colton have also received support from HomCo. Brackin said the company raises and donates more than $50,000 per year.
Brackin’s connection to the store runs deep—he started working there at age 16 and always knew that’s where he wanted his career to lead. Nine years ago, he bought the business from his father.
Over the years, HomCo’s business has changed—customers are more informed and competition from internet retail has grown. To set itself apart, the store puts a priority on training its staff and making sure they are there to truly help customers, Brackin said.
Employees get about 40 hours of training per year, and each morning there’s a 15-minute briefing where staff often receive training on new or popular products.
Much of the time, a store employee is stationed at the front door to greet customers.
“They don’t shy away from questions or departments they know nothing about. They find the person able to help rather than let the customer roam,” Brackin said.
One of HomCo’s employees has a particularly special story. The young woman, named Jaclyn, has Down syndrome and was connected with HomCo through the Flagstaff Unified School District and someone who thought a part-time job there would be good for her, Brackin said. Now, Jaclyn has worked at HomCo for more than four years. She dusts and straightens products on the shelves and has continued to work there even though she graduated from the school program.
“When the minimum wage deal came down, (Jaclyn’s grandmother) thought it would cost Jaclyn her job but I said, ‘no way,’ because this means so much to her,” Brackin said. “There’s another instance of local. We’re able to do and we do those things.”
The business’s local ownership also means a different customer experience, he said.
“When people have problems, they call me. They know they’re not just getting a supervisor or whatever. If they have a real problem they will contact me, and I listen.”