Some people find their work monotonous, but not Wade Pearson, the president of Home of Economy. “Retail is great,” he declares. “There’s always something different to work on.”
Based in Grand Forks, N.D., Home of Economy operates five stores in its home state that sell farm and plumbing supplies, auto parts, sporting goods, housewares and toys. Pearson’s grandparents, Bob and Jean Kiesau, founded the company in Thief River Falls, Minn., in 1939.
Initially, Home of Economy operated as a wholesale business, as Bob Kiesau recapped used tires at night and sold them during the day. Over the years, the Kiesaus turned it into an auto parts store, Pearson says.
Home of Economy also made sure to change with the times, he adds. In the 1950s, the company became the first retailer in the state and country to give fleet discounts to its customers. It also expanded the types of products it sold, including Amish furniture, which it now sells at two locations.
This year, Home of Economy is celebrating 75 years of business. “We’ve done a lot of things right,” Pearson says, noting that it sells products from prominent brands such as Carhartt and Honda. “We’ve tried to offer the best product we can at the lowest price. We stay pretty true to that.”
Home of Economy copes with challenges in its market, including increased competition, Pearson explains. Additionally, “The market has really tightened up here in the supplier situation,” he says. “[There is] so much turnover in the supplier community with things going out of business.”
To cope, Home of Economy not only sells products from well-known brands, but also offers a guaranteed lowest price plan, Pearson says. “We will match anybody’s price,” he says, adding that the stores also sell products that other stores do not, including safety gear.
Home of Economy also continues adapting to the market. Recently, it added 30,000 square feet to its location in Williston, N.D., so it would be better equipped to sell and stock products for the oil industry.
“We just needed more room for more stuff,” he says. “It’s still not big enough, but we can do [well] with the location we have.”
The company also keeps up with technology, and has implemented a point-of-sales system. “We believe very strongly that having the best information is absolutely necessary,” Pearson says.
Home of Economy has not yet staked a claim in the world of e-commerce, but that is changing. In the past, the company had concentrated its efforts on its stores, but “we’re already developing a small web site in the specialty category,” he reports.
Pearson joined his family’s business in 1985, the day after graduating from college. “For a long time, that’s what I wanted to do,” he says, asserting that he still has a passion for the industry. “I really do like the variety.”
As a manager, “My biggest thing is to be low key and never get upset about anything,” he says. “I treat people with respect and always keep improving.”
Other members of his family are involved with the company, including Principal R. Scott Pearson. Additionally, “My mother, [Virginia Eelkema], serves as the chairman of the board,” Wade Pearson says. “They just went around and visited the stores last week.”
He adds that Home of Economy maintains a “family friendly” environment for its team of approximately 300 workers, who primarily work 40 hours a week. “We try to be respectful of everybody in the company and their personal lives,” he says. “We try to be the best place to work that we can be.”
Making sure Home of Economy’s people want to stay is critical, since “the labor situation is real tight in North Dakota,” Pearson says. “It’s got the lowest unemployment rate in the country.”
Home of Economy plans to expand, Pearson says. “We’ve got a unique opportunity, so we’re looking at places where we can go,” he says. “We’re not out to be the biggest place in the country, but we want to be a little stronger and a little better.
“We’re using the good times right now as a springboard to keep growing,” he says, noting that this will happen in the next few years. “We want to stay in the region, but it might involve out-of-state [expansion].”
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