Andrea Morann didn’t dream of owning a hardware store, but when she saw an opportunity to run an established local business she decided to take a chance.
Morann and her husband, Lee, bought Sanford Lumber and Building Supplies in August of last year. Since then, Morann has been kept busy overseeing renovations to the building and increasing the number of products and services available at the store.
The 36-year-old grew up in the Winnipeg neighbourhood of Fort Garry and met Lee while working for a transportation company in Oak Bluff. Lee grew up in Sanford and the couple decided to settle there. Lee began a water delivery business about 15 years ago while Morann continued working outside the community.
After the couple had their three children, Morann began searching for a job that would allow her to work in Sanford and remain closer to home.
"I like the idea of being in town," she said.
Her father was working at Sanford Lumber when the former owner decided to sell the business and retire. Morann’s father told her about the business being up for sale and she took it over a little more than a year ago. Her father continues to work there full-time while her brother is a part-time employee.
Morann acknowledges she has gradually been adding a woman’s touch to the store, rearranging stock and updating displays and fixtures.
"I loved the old country store feel. I don’t want to lose that. Yet I see so much potential — both on the lumber and building materials end and with the new items I am adding," she said.
Some of the initial upgrades to the store included replacing the building’s windows and an exterior wall.
"My goal for the first year was to keep the heat in and the rain out," Morann joked.
Morann has become a Feed Rite distributor and keeps the animal feed and supplements she sells in a barn-like room at the back of the store.
Another recent addition has been a Sears catalogue pick-up service. Morann said she added the service after discovering no other businesses in the region offered it.
In August, she gained approval to allow the store to stock domestic beer in addition to the wine, imported beer and spirits it already sold.
Her latest new service stems from a partnership with a small business in Morris that sells ink cartridges and refills for printers.
"We are trying to get a feel for what items and services the community needs and will support. "
Knowing how busy young families can be, Morann decided to extend the store’s weekday hours of operations by two hours to 8 p.m. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and closed Sundays.
By offering a wider variety of products and services, Morann hopes to increase in-store traffic.
"There are definitely people coming in who haven’t been in the store before."
Morann believes that her store’s competitive edge is a result of offering personal service. It can deliver building supplies directly to homeowners and will even arrange to open the store during off-hours if someone calls her and needs a product immediately.
"We can compete with the big box stores," she said.
Morann is planning more changes and dreams of using a second floor room for a used book store and consignment area.
"I would love to have an area where local crafters and artists can showcase their talents," she said.
Morann is also watching as sub-divisions are developed in the area, and knows the owners of those new homes will want to build decks and fences, giving her an opportunity to bring in new business.
"I am hoping to have a computer program to design decks and sheds by next spring," she said.