Of all the advantages Independent retailers have over larger national chains, two consistently stand out: their ability to act as nimble businesses and their ties to the local community. A Walmart or Best Buy operating in middle America is going to look and operate much like a Walmart on the East Coast or a Walmart in the deep South — for better or worse. That type of national strategy may work just fine for a major, faceless corporation. But it leaves the door wide open for local retailers to swoop in and better serve the people in their communities.
Take Webb’s Home Store, an Emmet, Idaho-based furniture, mattress and appliance retailer. The Home Store is a single-store operation that rests roughly 40 miles from downtown Boise, but with how localized this community of 6,500 residents is, it might as well be 4,000 miles from the closest “major metropolis.”
As Grant Webb, the store’s owner, tells it, the Home Store was initially started in 2007 with no real designs on selling product. Rather, the business was launched as an appliance repair shop that serviced the town’s residents. “We were an older community at that time, and all they wanted to do was repair their old appliances rather than buy a new one,” he says.
Just over a decade later, Webb’s Home Store looks completely different.
“We expand off things that are changing, and right now our hometown is changing,” Webb says. “After having my repair business for 13 years, we just closed it down. One of my old employees started his own repair shop, which worked out perfectly because we’re geared now more towards retail, sales, delivery and professional installations.”
Looked at even closer, Webb has evolved his product mix as well. The Home Store’s retail presence started, ostensibly, with the appliances that they were servicing. He then added mattresses to the mix, and eventually he brought in furniture. “There’s change in sales, and I think any smart businessman has to change to your clientele,” Webb explains.
The Home Store’s evolution as a business involves more than just their physical presence, though. Within the past year or so, Webb jumped into the e-commerce arena, launching a website for his business. Admittedly, Webb says that launching a website was very low on his to-do list. And, sure, in a town of 6,500 residents, where the internet may not be in every household, that way of thinking may feel justified. What made it even more difficult, though, is Webb’s strong convictions around building deep trust and respect between himself and his clientele.
“Emmett is a real small farm community, real handshakes, everybody knows your family. Somewhere down the line you guys all probably were related,” Webb says. “That’s just how we were raised.”
But there again, Webb demonstrates an Independent business owner’s strength. Not only is his business able to be nimble and adaptive to the changing times, but so, too, is his way of thinking as a businessperson. Despite early reservations and even an unwillingness to take the digital dive, Webb says launching the e-commerce platform was one of the smartest business decisions he ever made.
“After a while, when you go out and shake people’s hands and people know who you are, they’re like, ‘Oh I can shop at home because you’re closed when we get back from work,’” he explains. “And all of a sudden, we started getting a few sales. I’ll say my best paid employee is my website. It works 24/7, it knows how to price match and it never makes a mistake unless I don’t know how to use the computer.”
All told, Webb’s Home Store is realizing another level of success these days thanks to the adaptive business decisions Grant Webb has made over the years. And that success has led Webb to consider possible expansion. No firm plans are in place, but Webb says he’s in the early process of scouting locations for two potential new Webb’s Home Stores.
The Music Man
Any conversation with Grant Webb may start with learning about his retail business. But eventually, and perhaps inevitably, you’ll end up talking with him about his budding music career.
Webb’s passion for music started when he was just 6 years old and was gifted his first guitar. He landed his first paying gig as part of his father’s band when he was just 12 years old. And over the years, he says he’s been a part of 10 or so different bands. Eventually, he decided to go out on his own and give himself a year or two of writing and playing his own music.
“I just started writing from my heart, and one day I had a rough day at work, and I wrote a song called ‘Baby Let’s Run,’” he says. “It was about getting in an old Pontiac that my grandparents used to sell back in the ’60s and driving to the coast and just having no worries. All of a sudden, I started getting a big following because people were like, ‘Man, that’s what I want to do.’ And I’m like, ‘Well I wrote that song because it was my feeling that day because I had a trade tariff issue and had to give someone’s money back.’ And that’s no BS — every time I get really cranky and stressed because of all the stuff happening, fourth-quarter stress, this and that, I like to write music.”
Webb spent this past summer touring with his bandmates, opening for some big country music acts, and really just living a dream. Balancing the music with the business, he says, was a challenge at times. But for any business owner, pursuing a passion can have enormous added benefits for both your personal and professional lives.
“Everybody is driven differently than the 9-to-5 lifestyle,” Webb says. “My family is not only in my household but it’s my customers, it’s my employees, it’s my musician friends. And when you treat people that way, with respect and as your friends, life’s a lot greener.”
Webb has turned his passion for music into a giveback effort as well. This fall, he launched a program to provide music lessons to kids, and he already has 40 students signed up.
“I like to do a lot for my community,” he says. “Anybody who gives a gift away and wants recognition for it, their heart’s not in the right spot. So, I do a lot for kids, I do a lot for families, and that’s just what I do daily.”
Rob is the corporate communications manager for Nationwide Marketing Group.