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A Legacy and Looking Ahead

Bill Lee, the North American Retail Hardware Association’s (NRHA) president and CEO, has devoted his career to helping independent retailers, regardless of wholesale affiliation, become better, more profitable business owners.

As he retires this December, Hardware Retailing wanted to hear from Bill’s industry friends and family to discover the impression he has made on NRHA and the industry. Congratulations, Bill!

Bill LeeLinda Johnson, Village True Value

Warm, gentle, considerate, thoughtful, forward thinking, open minded, intelligent, retail focused, caring, persistent, fun. When I reflect on my experiences with Bill Lee as a retailer and a member of the NRHA board of directors, these are only some of the descriptive words that come to mind.

Bill has always put the NRHA membership first. How will a decision effect the retailer, will it fit with our mission statement? Bill has worked with his team to steadily improve the NRHA and what it offers its membership.

Programs have been reworked, new opportunities offered, and yearly events improved. Through Bill’s guidance NRHA is poised to serve the retailer for at least the next twenty years and beyond. Bill may not be in the office after December, but his positive influence will be seen every day in the office and through the activities of the NRHA.

Thanks for your guidance and foresight over the years Bill. Selfishly, I learned a lot from my involvement with the NRHA and especially from Bill, many of which I apply to my business on a daily basis. Enjoy your retirement Bill and I know Jane will also enjoy having a gourmet dinner on the table every night when she comes home from work!

Bob Cutter, incoming president and CEO of NRHA

When I came to the association, I didn’t know the mission, and when Bill Lee took the role as president and CEO of NRHA, that quickly changed. It was a big focus of his. Now, it’s a focus of the entire association staff.

Everything we do, we want to do and we believe is wrapped around the litmus test of whether it’s good for the association and our members. Bill got us back on track with our focus, and he has laid the groundwork for me as I follow in his footsteps as the president and CEO of NRHA.

Bill Aubuchon, Aubuchon Hardware

I had the great pleasure of working with Bill Lee on several NRHA projects over the past few years that we believe will prove valuable to the association.

During my time with him, he demonstrated a fantastic devotion and support for all association members. NRHA is in a better place today because of Bill’s efforts and influence.

Bill, congratulations on an outstanding career! I wish you and Jane long life with tremendous health and happiness.

Jane Lee, Bill Lee’s wife

I think Bill would agree with me that his time at NRHA has been a great adventure full of endeavors, challenges and opportunities.

Bill and I have been fortunate to visit many independent hardware stores and home centers all over North America. We’ve enjoyed seeing how different and unique they all are. I’ve certainly enjoyed shopping in each store during our visit. I always find something to purchase as a reminder of that particular store.

Getting to know all the owners has been equally enjoyable, if not more so. A great amount of these retailers happen to be family owned, so we had the pleasure of getting to know their families as well.

Bill and I are familiar with family businesses. My parents owned a manufacturing business, which helped Bill learned the challenges and responsibilities of owning and operating a family business. This knowledge was the first step in helping him successfully relate to independent retailers.

The experiences and relationships he gained over time aided him in the guidance and development of educational programs that NRHA now offers to independent retailers. The relationships, opportunities and knowledge Bill and I have acquired from his time with NRHA have been extraordinary. We have had the privilege of meeting so many wonderful people in the hardware industry and have gained many close friends.

If it weren’t for NRHA, we probably would not have traveled to such exciting places with other hardware retailers. We have been fortunate to travel with groups to Europe to attend several conferences, and Bill and I have made some very dear friends in the hardware industry from different countries, thanks to NRHA.

We stay in touch with them on a regular basis, and whenever we get the chance to get together, we always reminisce over the fond memories we have. I am extremely proud of the hard work and accomplishments Bill has made while working for NRHA.

Even though Bill and I will be a part of the “has been” community soon, NRHA will always be very special to us. We sure have enjoyed this adventure at NRHA for the last 20 years. We will certainly miss it when Bill retires. It is now time for us to start a new adventure, and we are excited to see where this one will take us!

Bill LeeJerry Meis, Lenoch & Cilek Ace

For any organization, having the right leader at the right time is crucial. Bill Lee came to NRHA with little hardware experience, but quickly grasped the industry and its needs.

Under his tenure, he took the association to a new level by surrounding NRHA with talented people and empowering them. He oversaw the expansion of industry training and used the financial resources to move NRHA into a multipurpose, association-owned building.

Today, he leaves NRHA financially strong with an energetic, engaged staff and an association that is a strong resource and conduit for our industry.

Bob Vereen, retired NRHA employee

Hardline retailers in both the U.S. and Canada have benefited greatly because Bill Lee has been such a dedicated and inspirational leader of NRHA by providing guidance to NRHA’s staff and developing new services and programs for its members.

Bill LeeDick Thomes, Thomes Bros.

Bill has changed the entire philosophy of NRHA into a member-driven organization, which tries to do what’s best for the industry and its retailers.

Bill will be remembered for his outstanding leadership at NRHA, building it into the outstanding organization it is today. Bill has been a great friend to me and my wife, and we look forward to our travels together in the future.

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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