Sometime in the late 1800's George Washington Shannon, Tom Shannon’s great grandfather, sold hardware from a covered wagon in El Paso, Texas. For whatever reason; war, dust storms or poor economy - he made the decision to head northwest.
His destination was Blaine or Everett, Washington, but he got side tracked to Anacortes because Anacortes in the late 1800's was considered to be the New York of the Pacific Northwest. It boasted of a Milwaukee Railroad terminal, a good port facility, large marine and fishing potential, lumber and cedar mills, plus good trade with the Far East. Many cast their lot and their fate to this area.
For a great many, it was a folly. However, in 1891 G.W. Shannon was established at 6th & Commercial and continued in family hands until 1938. Unfortunately, the Great Depression of 1929 and the subsequent years of the early 30's took a big toll on this and many other businesses. At that time, G.W. Shannon was a small retail "hardware store." It was not what we see today. G.W. Shannon had pots, pans, stoves, toasters, nuts, bolts, a sheet metal shop, plumbing and even dog biscuits. Lumber mills were run by steam, so the Company carried pipes and fittings from 1/8" to 6". There were shelves with pockets of hardware goods running all the way to the ceiling and two wonderful rolling ladders, which ran the length of the store and back. The original Anacortes building remains at 6th & Commercial and is now a historic building with "Shannon Building 1891" etched on the front.
When the business was given up in 1938, Tom Shannon went into the codfish processing and fishmeal business with a local establishment. He might have stayed there permanently had it not been for a terrible back injury, which virtually paralyzed him from the waist down. In 1940, after four months in the hospital, he was able to navigate and he found a position with a company in Tacoma called Washington Hardware. Despite his injury, he worked on their sales counter and eventually moved into sales and purchasing. He worked tirelessly and the Company allowed him to buy stock.
At this time, Washington Hardware was primarily retail and industrial. A gentleman named Morrie Johnson was developing and selling a line of kitchen handy items, along with specializing in cabinet hardware and abrasive products. He sold to cabinet hardware and millwork customers, using a concern called Carleton Hardware (located at 1516 - 15th Avenue West) in Seattle, as a sort of sub distributor for the cabinet trade to pick up products. Washington Hardware was also doing a small amount of wholesale business with lumberyards on items they were buying direct - hand and garden tools, electric tools and Delta Saw equipment. In 1945 the stockholders purchased Carleton Hardware as a separate corporation. Mr. Shannon was sent there in 1946 to close it or sell it. He saw the potential of the Company and convinced the stockholders to keep it going. By drastically reducing improper inventory and getting a good contract hardware team in place, the company branch started making good progress.
After the acquisition of Carleton Hardware, most of the stockholders of Washington Hardware invested in Washington Steel Products and established it in Seattle next to Carleton Hardware. Morrie Johnson was president. Mr. Carleton, then president of Carleton Hardware, wished to leave and requested a name change; and the original Northwest Builders Hardware & Supply Co. came into existence. (There was no connection with the other Northwest Builders that was part of Henry Bacon). Mrs. Henry (then Miss Shannon) joined that team in 1949 as price clerk.
In about 1955 Northwest Builders Hardware, Washington Hardware and Oregon- Washington Hardware (the latter a wholly owned subsidiary of Washington Hardware) merged into Washington Steel Products (now located in Tacoma), with the management of the wholesale units centralized in Tacoma. Mr. Shannon opposed the merger and retired in 1956. The re-organization was unsuccessful and did not last long. It was a sad ending for four fine businesses.
Meanwhile, the original Builders' Hardware & Supply Co. had been started by a person named Jack Jones in 1935 as a purely contract hardware company, and doing fairly well considering there was just Mr. & Mrs. Jones and three employees. In 1958 Mr. & Mrs. Jones wanted to retire. Mr. Shannon's options for buying Northwest Builders had run out, so he sold his boat, mortgaged his home and purchased Builders Hardware & Supply Co., Inc. Mrs. Henry joined that team making a total of six people. In an attempt to expand into the dealer market, Mr. Shannon merged with a financially ailing company called C. P. Keeler Company. The opportunity came in early 1960 to return to our present location at 1516 - 15th Avenue West and the Company relocated.
Unfortunately, the early 60's were poor economic years. The assumption of the C. P. Keeler Company debt load, declining business, bad credit customers, a Boeing depression, and rent to pay on three locations created too much financial stress. The company was basically broke. Instead of accepting bankruptcy, Mr. Shannon and Mrs. Henry decided to continue the operation with the help of a small business investment company and a few cooperating factories. Thanks to the sacrifices and efforts made by loyal employees, management and further assistance from a SBA loan, the Company survived, and began to grow to a healthier position.
The Kennewick branch of Builders’ Hardware was established in the late 1960’s by Mrs. Henry and its first manager, Charlie Whitescarver, a former competitor. Started mainly to supply the Hanford Nuclear Reservation with Corbin locks and cylinders, it has grown from two employees in a 750 square foot building to more than ten employees in a 13,500 square foot building located at 114 South Auburn Street, complete with a commercial hardware department and a UL listed hollow metal door and frame shop. Besides Charlie Whitescarver, Kennewick has known only two other managers, the late Jim Lindsey from 1977 to 1983, and Bob Larson from 1984 to the present. Together, the Kennewick staff has over 100 years combined experience in finish hardware, hollow metal doors and frames, and commercial wood doors.
The Company had been a Yale Contract Hardware account, but switched to Corbin. Mrs. Henry attended the Corbin School in New Britain, CT, and returned to take over the contract operation portion of the business. Meanwhile, Mr. Shannon used his expertise to enhance the dealer portion of the business and develop a large Schlage business also selling to other smaller Schlage accounts in the country. Since the Company has always been customer oriented, it was decided to incorporate a Hollow Metal Division in 1981.
Remodeling in 1985 expanded our Shipping, Receiving, and Warehouse areas adding much needed space.
The Contract Residential Department was established in 1986. The addition of this department filled a void in the Pacific NW for residential customers to purchase their high-end hardware and receive quality expertise on their project.
In 1986, with great hesitation as to its ultimate value, BH&S purchased its very first fax machine.
The computer age caught up with BH&S in 1989 with the introduction of a computer for Pricing and Accounting. In the next couple of years, order entry and purchasing were also added to the program. This system was in place until we outgrew it and in 1999 implemented the current Eclipse system.
In 1992, BH&S purchased the building and land we currently occupy. In 1993 the Kennewick branch moved to their new offices on land purchased and owned by Shirley Henry. Over the subsequent 30 plus years the Company has had many very fine and responsible people join the team and become stockholders.
In 1994 Shirley Henry was promoted to President of Builders’ Hardware. Tom Shannon assumed the duties of Chairman of the board.
Sadly, 1996 was a milestone year for BH&S with the passing of our Founder, Tom Shannon at the age of 92.
In 2000, Doug Gerbing succeeded Shirley Henry as President of BH&S. Shirley assumed the role of CEO.
A passion that both Shirley and Tom Shannon shared was to have BH&S prosper as an employee owned company after they were both gone. In 2002, Shirley Henry passed away. She left behind a solid company now owned solely by loyal, experienced employees.
In 2005, Doug Gerbing assumed the role of Chairman and CEO, John Phillips was made President and Greg Lunde was named Senior Vice President. In addition to Bob Larson remaining our Vice President - Kennewick Branch, we also named Randy Dalseg as Vice President – Contract Division and Al Sandhop as Vice President – Merchandising & Purchasing.
BH&S continues with the philosophy that service to the customer, along with some good common sense, is the key to our success.
Our Mission is…
• To be the primary source of Architectural Hardware, Hollow Metal and Commercial Wood Doors, and related residential materials for our customers in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
• To provide the highest level of professionalism and service possible while maintaining a fair and equitable price to our customers and an acceptable return on investments for our shareholders.
• To create a pleasant work environment for our employees and to provide the opportunity for a career path within our company.
Our employee-owners, now over 100, are knowledgeable and eager to please. We enjoy the many friends we’ve made over the years in our ever-changing industry.