It’s been almost two years since the downtown hardware and general store Olympia Supply Company received its vibrant new paint job. The blue body of the building highlights the bold orange letters making the century-old business fresh again. Now, the crew at Oly Supply has given the same treatment to the interior, resetting merchandise and updating signage to welcome the next generation of shoppers.
The improvements are obvious as you reach the front door, with classic window lettering and door signage giving a vintage, yet modern vibe at the same time. Inside, additional signs hang throughout, directing customers to just what they need. Most noticeable is a bold new arrow sign directing shoppers to goods in the warehouse section of the store.
The signs were crafted by a long-time Olympia Supply customer, and local sign painting master, Ira Coyne. “Ira’s been a customer for a long, long time,” shares office manager Kathy Waltermeyer. “It’s truly an example of local supporting local when we choose Ira to do our signs.”
However, the signs may not be the first thing you notice when you walk into the newly re-organized store. The spacious, open new layout at the front of the store elicits a “wow!” from most customers who enter. Instead of entering directly into merchandise racks as before, customers now find an open and airy space in front of the register displaying seasonal and featured items, but more importantly, featuring a lot of open floor space.
Customers linger, chat, and gather in the front of the store, now. They can even take a seat on the new benches in the shoe and apparel corner, created to give customers space to try on the Bogs and Georgia Boots they offer as well as browse Helly-Hansen all-weather gear, socks and more.
“We moved the boots and shoes out of the front aisle of the store. People were always struggling to try things on in the tight space. Now they can sit down and try things on,” explains Waltermeyer.
Moving the shoes created more space for housewares and canning in the front window area. New items are added daily, including a full display of Lodge Cast Iron products and everything you need to can your summer garden bounty.
And with summer just around the corner, the front of the store showcases a wide selection of Weber Grills and grilling supplies. My favorite? The Seahawks colored portable grills perfect for tailgating at next season’s football games.
Beyond the lobby and storefront changes, there are less glamourous, but certainly equally important organizational changes throughout the store to help customers find just what they need, all in one place.
Lightbulbs have been moved from their previous location in the warehouse section so they are adjacent to the electrical supplies. All the tool accessories are now located with the tools themselves. The plumbing supplies are now located in the back right alongside, you guessed it, the pipes and fittings.
“We call it ‘product adjacency,’” explains Waltermeyer. “But, really, it just makes sense.” Olympia Supply’s evolution over the last 13 years – from wholesale construction supply to a full service retail store – has taught them what retail customers are looking for and how they shop. With the surge in DIY projects, Pinterest-inspired plans and vegetable gardening and preserving, the staff knew they needed to create a store where getting everything needed for a project was simple and efficient.
Assistant Manager Dan Fincannon was instrumental in helping with the store’s reset. As the manager on-duty each weekend and crew member since 2007, Fincannon has countless interactions with weekend warriors aiming to finish a project on Saturday and Sunday. He gave input on what people were looking for and which items should be grouped together to make completing that pallet board coffee table a snap.
One of the biggest changes to the flow of the store is the removal of the old swinging doors separating the front of the store and the rear warehouse. Simply removing these, and painting the remaining frame Oly Supply signature orange, changes the flow and feel of the space. The product movement to the back of the store feels more natural and welcoming and come winter, new insulated doors will make the space cozy as well.
The hardware section remains on the back wall of the warehouse, but customers will be thrilled with new, prominent signs telling you just where the nuts, bolts and screws are located. No more hunting for just the right thing – it’s all labeled and ready for quick selection.
Swing by Olympia Supply Company next time you visit downtown Olympia. Check out the changes, tick a few things off your project shopping list, and browse the newly organized store. The welcoming look and feel now matches the warm welcome given by the staff for over 100 years.
Olympia Supply Company
625 Columbia Street SW
Olympia, WA 98501