COLUMBUS — Steve Long is a small-town guy who wants to give his customers the best prices, best service and all-around best experience at Sears Hometown Store.
The Columbus native ran the downtown Sears along 13th Street before he and his wife Karen decided to move the business across town to 4300 23rd St.
“We moved because we noticed there was a hole that needed to be filled somehow,” Long said. “It just didn’t feel right being downtown.”
In 2012, a number of Sears stores separated from the main company and became independently owned. Long was owner to make the switch, a move he said allows him to focus more on local needs.
“We separated so we could tailor merchandise to hometowns and not big cities,” Long said.
When Sears was receiving negative publicity about declining sales, customers at the local store asked questions. It wasn't difficult for Long to explain his independence.
“Negative publicity can run businesses out of work,” he said. “But we are a completely separate entity than Sears, and we want to make sure people understand that.”
There are roughly 1,200 Sears Hometown Stores across the nation that cater to their respective community’s needs.
The Columbus store offers appliances, lawn and garden equipment, tools and hardware and even cellphones. Not only does the business sell appliances, it also offers delivery and installation for customers.
Prices are set competitively and a price-matching system is in place. Long said his business will match prices from any brick-and-mortar store.
Long is dedicated to his customers and wants to make sure his team can meet their needs.
“We make a lot of new and positive changes,” he said. “There have been a lot of IT changes, and with that, we are transitioning into our own way. Our sales team and employees all have to take a special test each month to make sure they are up to date on the newest sales and company rules.”
The hard work seems to have paid off. According to Long, his store ranks in the top five in sales for the region, which includes 120 other locations.
“There is no need for anyone to shop 80 miles away for major brands,” Long said. “We have Kenmore, Whirlpool, KitchenAid, GE, Frigidaire, Samsung and more. Anything we don’t have in the store can be ordered and shipped here for free. It’ll get here in three to four days, so the process is fairly quick.”
The local Hometown Store has access to the full inventory of Sears products and can order virtually anything that's not currently in the inventory.
“Our biggest sellers are washers and dryers,” Long said. “Last year we sold 11,000 alone. We have the full gamut of ranges in fridges, dishwashers and microwaves, as well as a large tool selection.”
Customers who purchase their products under warranty can bring them back to the local store for repairs.
Technicians can also be sent to someone's house to fix an appliance.
The business averages around seven to eight deliveries in Columbus each day, with about one per week to surrounding communities.
Since the 2012 move to an independent store, Long has made certain to cater to his local customers in any way he can.
He plans to continue doing so for a long time to come.
“I can get out on the roof and look down and see houses all around here,” Long said. “Those are our customers. So why would I leave here?”