Adding stores is actually a learned skill, just like any endeavor. It involves a balancing act whereby the owner must assemble a staff and systems that immediately support and maintain the brand’s standard for quality, while showing enough flexibility to tailor the product mix to each store’s clientele. Heritage Recreation Center opened its first location in 1974 in Sutton, Mass. Its second, in Putnam, Conn. — just across the state line — didn’t open until 2009.
Between ’74 and ’09, though, Heritage opened and closed two stores, which taught co-owner Paul Domey lessons to apply when opening in Putnam.
He found that the right staffing decisions can make or break a new store.
“You must have staff that is fully trained,” he says. “Those stores need, for most of their open times, to be able to operate independently and not be always calling the main store for answers. They need to be able to look up parts and test water.
“We didn’t have that the majority of the time in the first two stores that we opened, so they floundered.” One change he and business partner Lori Mooskian made when opening the Putnam store was having the new store manager pass the certified pool operator test and starting that person in the Sutton store to learn the business.
“Lori and I put in the first two or three months of hours in that Putnam store so that the clientele got to see the ownership on a regular basis, and they got knowledgable answers,” Domey says. “And when the staff that we hired started to work a number of hours in that Putnam store, they had excellent experience behind them.”
Plus, staffers at both stores receive professional training under the certified service professional, certified service technician, certified building professional or CPO programs. This has the added benefit of helping the company, which also has building and service departments, to meet Connecticut licensing laws.
Domey and Mooskian experienced an unexpected hiccup as a result of opening the second store in another state: They were in a different territory for some of their chemical lines and couldn’t advertise them. Customers also asked for products Heritage Recreation Center didn’t typically carry, such as quick tabs, so Domey had to adjust inventory.
“The only thing I would have done is targeted my advertising a little bit differently,” Domey says. “I would have actually used the fact that I couldn’t advertise them to my advantage.”