Chatting with the Owner of Clement Hardware
Patch spoke with Gordon Clement about running a business in Severna Park.
The town of Severna Park is full of local businesses that provide great services for the community.
In order to get a better sense of the owners and managers behind the businesses, Patch is introducing a new column. Severna Park Patch will talk with local business owners about life in Severna Park and how they got their start.
This week Patch spoke with Clement Hardware owner Gordon Clement.
Clement is well known around Severna Park for his generosity. Whether he is donating his time or supplies to assist Superstorm Sandy victims or helping local elementary students raise money Clement is always willing to help others.
Clement's parents first opened the hardware store in 1969 and it has been family-run and operated since then.
Severna Park Patch: What is your favorite part about running a business in Severna Park?
Gordon Clement: I’d have to say knowing most of my customers. Most of my customers are repeat customers. Sometimes I don’t know their names but I know who they are and know other members of their families from stories they have told me.
Severna Park Patch: How did your business get started, and where did the idea come from?
Gordon Clement: My father was an industrial engineer for Sylvania and Campbell Soup. Back in the 1940s if the company wanted to buy a building he would help find the building and design it to turn it into a factory. Although I think he liked some aspects of what he was doing, he wasn’t cut out for corporate life. He wanted to open a hardware store.
He used to buy houses and renovate them and he just thought it would be fun to own a store. When I was 3 years old and he found a hardware store on the Eastern Shore and quit his job and moved the family there. Some days, we do more business here than that store did in a whole year in the 60s.
Severna Park Patch: What’s the biggest challenge Clement Hardware has overcome?
Gordon Clement: I think the hardest thing we overcame is we expanded right before the 1990 recession and the early '90s were just really grim.
We found a couple of niches we hadn’t had before and those became a big part of our business. I think that when you hit adversity you really dig deep to find things you’re doing wrong or can improve upon or a product you haven’t had before.
We didn’t used to sell architecture hardware and my brother Jeff came up with the idea of selling high-end hardware through mail order at a discount. At first we just had a catalog and an 800-phone number, but it developed into being half of our business. In the beginning I knew nothing about what I was selling but I learned. Now we have three to four people in that department and it’s a big part of the business.
Severna Park Patch: What’s unique about your business? Why should customers come?
Gordon Clement: Really the level of service we provide is unheard of in today’s world. People come in and find people who know about plumbing and electrical. We understand how things go together. There used to be more businesses that offered that service but it is going away. It is difficult but we have a good location, clientele and the niches we have developed that make it possible to still develop that level of service.
Severna Park Patch: What’s a typical day like for you?
Gordon Clement: Normally we open about 7:30 and the first bit is usually pretty quiet. It’s mostly contractors coming in and buying supplies for projects. At some point I usually have to go to the bank and get coins and go to the post office and run some errands. It can be different every day. People call in sick, you end up in their area—you don’t know where you are going to end up and what is going to happen. You just make it happen and it’s kind of interesting.
Severna Park Patch: What other local businesses do you like to frequent?
Gordon Clement: I go Squisito and I like Romilo's a lot. I like Jeno’s Steaks too. I usually buy my gas next door at the Carroll Fuel.
I like to deal with businesses where the owner of the business is on the premises. It’s getting to be with, every town looking so similar, hard to find things that are independent—like a restaurant where there is a family running that restaurant. Everything is becoming Applebee’s and Five Guys and there is nothing wrong with that product, but as much as I can in this community I try to do business where I know the money is going to stay in the neighborhood.
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