Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to William and Janet Rigby of William J. Rigby Co. in Cooperstown.
How long have you lived in the area?
We have lived in the area 21 years.
Tell me about your business.
We sell antique builders’ hardware; that is, locks, knobs, hinges and anything that fastens on a building. Most of our stock is unused original hardware from before World War II. We don’t sell reproductions or salvage hardware. Bill also restores hardware to original or better than original condition. We ship hardware that is fully functional and ready to install, oftentimes with custom installation instructions. A big part of our job is education by helping our customers understand what they have and what they need to make things work.
Describe a typ
ical day in your business.
There is no typical day. In a
perfect world, we fill orders that come in over the website or by phone, update the website so we don’t sell things twice, pull hardware that can be listed on the website and start the process of research, photography and descriptions. But then we also answer the phone, field questions and meet with anyone who walks into the shop.
How did you get started in this line of work?
We both have background is historic preservation and knew there was a market for good old hardware. Once we moved here, we had the opportunity to buy large quantities of unused hardware from hardware stores and warehouses in various cities. We amassed a collection of old hardware catalogs from which we do research, and Bill can fix anything. We knew we could do it.
Where do you see this business in five years?
We’ll probably be puttering right along. This business fits in with our lifestyle and is never dull. We will never move out of our niche market.
What have you learned from your work?
We have learned that, for 100 years, American manufacturers made great hardware! We also found that a lot of good people are tackling major restorations and want to do it right. We love hearing their stories.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
The most challenging part of what we do is having to say “Sorry” to someone when we don’t have what they need. Then we recommend some of the other people we know in the same line of work.
What is the most enjoyable part of what you do?
Always, the most enjoyable part of what we do is finding a new stash of hardware! A close second is hearing from customers who love what they’ve bought.
How do you define success for your business?
For our business, success is repeat customers — when they come back because they are tackling a new part of their project and look to us for solutions.
What are some of the disadvantages as well as advantages of doing business in this area?
Disadvantage? When you have to spend most of your morning snow blowing the driveway so customers can come in! The advantage is we have a business we love in an area that is like no other, especially on a beautiful day.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
What sets us apart of competitors is our customer service and supplying of products that function as well as look great. There aren’t too many competitors to begin with, and we actually all keep in touch and pass customers on to each other.
What advice would you give to someone entering this line of work?
As with any business, you have to love it. In this business you have to know your stuff and develop a background in history of buildings, hardware and manufacturing as well as being versed in modern marketing.
For more information about Shop Talk, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.William J. Rigby Co. William and Janet Rigby 73 Elm St., Cooperstown www.wmjrigby.com