Home » Industry Events » Service Runs Deep: Family Legacy Drives Top Guns Honoree Wendy Stine

Service Runs Deep: Family Legacy Drives Top Guns Honoree Wendy Stine

While Wendy Stine jokes that she was born into this business, it isn’t far from the truth. As part of the third generation to lead Stine Home + Yard, Wendy has the home improvement industry in her blood. She has been working in the Stine stores since she was a teenager and currently serves as president of the company, which has 12 locations in Louisiana, one in Natchez, Mississippi, and a distribution center in Abbeville, Louisiana.

Wendy’s dedication to her family’s operation and its employees and customers is just one of the reasons why the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA) named her one of its 2024 Top Guns Awards honorees.

For 18 years, the Top Guns Awards program has recognized innovative, passionate retailers who are leading their operations and the independent home improvement industry at large with strategic investments focused on preserving independence and growing the channel. This award recognizes individuals as representatives of their operations who, through the work of engaged, dedicated staff, are making marks in their local communities.

Now part of an exclusive group of independent retailers, Wendy says she is honored to be named a Top Guns honoree and looks forward to tapping into the experience and knowledge of the other honorees.

“I appreciate organizations like NHPA that are introducing companies like ours to the rest of the channel of independents,” Wendy says. “We’re not afraid to ask others what makes them successful and what they are doing that could help us improve. I encourage everyone to reac

h out to the honorees and learn what they’re doing that could improve your business as well.”

Continuing a Legacy

In 1946, Wendy’s grandfather J.W. Stine and his best friend J.C. Carlin returned to Sulphur, Louisiana, from World War II as decorated combat pilots and started Starlin Construction Co. The partners amicably parted ways six years later, and J.W. went into the lumber retail business, opening Stine Lumber. He welcomed his six sons into the business throughout the 1950s. Now, Wendy is one of seven cousins in the third generation who are currently involved in the business, carrying on J.W.’s legacy.

Her foray into the family business started early, and Wendy remembers being dropped off at the store on the weekends when it was closed to clean the offices, bathrooms and kitchen with her sister.

“Then we got ‘promoted’ to do inventory and count the nuts and bolts because nobody else wanted to do that,” Wendy says. “I worked my way through the store, working as a cashier, salesperson, store manager and then eventually joining our corporate office.”

Being able to carry on her grandfather’s dream of building a company that is respected by the community is what drives Wendy. She loves interacting with employees and customers, and champions a culture of safety, fun, innovation and support.

When thinking about those people in her life who have influenced her career and contributed to her successes, Wendy says her grandfather comes to mind first. He passed away in 2020 at the age of 102, and Wendy treasures having him as a mentor for many years. She is also grateful to have worked with her father and five uncles throughout her career.

“They each created their own sector within the business in which they excelled,” Wendy says. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to work alongside and learn from each of them.”

Throughout her career, Wendy has seen a number of successes, but one of the highlights came when she was director of merchandising. A majority of the stores are located in southern Louisiana and often in the crosshairs of hurricanes. When storms hit the area during her time as director of merchandising, Wendy says she had to secure inventory as quickly as possible and get the products in the stores that customers needed. Sometimes that meant setting up a temporary store in the parking lot of a grocery store to sell generators and gas cans; other times it was creating a drive-through on the outside of a damaged store to continue getting products in customers’ hands.

“When Mother Nature visits us, we have chaos,” Wendy says. “But I like to be under pressure, and I work better under pressure, so those are always challenging and fun times for me.”

Wendy says she was also privileged to oversee another hurricane-related disaster in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) contractors had trouble securing inventory for the renovations and asked Wendy and Stine Home + Yard to step in and help. Thanks to strong relationships with vendors, Wendy was able to obtain inventory stateside and shipped products to the contractors.

“We set up mini stores there equipped with our point-of-sale system so the FEMA contractors could successfully manage their jobs. We relocated several Stine managers and team members to Miami and the islands to oversee day-to-day operations,” Wendy says. “It was fun and challenging all at the same time.”

Core Values Lived Out Loud

With a focus on competitive pricing, Wendy has helped Stine Home + Yard compete with the big-box stores. The operation’s relationships with vendors has led to increased buying power and a focus on carrying quality brands has gained customer loyalty with DIYers and contractors, Wendy says. The business also has an entire team dedicated to the professional contractor side with inside and outside sales members. But Wendy says exceptional customer service is the cornerstone of success.

Stine Home + Yard leadership has been reminding employees of the importance of offering great customer service and engaging customers. For the last few years, Wendy has been emphasizing customer service as an integral part of company culture.

“I think it all comes down to our people. It is what differentiates us from our competition,” she says. “We’re large enough to compete, but we’re small enough to care. We remind our associates they have to make a positive impact on our customers every single time.”

Safety is a Stine Home + Yard core value, which means it is a key element in the company culture. Wendy says in the past year, company leadership has started recognizing teams that have no Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations by treating them to a barbecue luncheon.

Wendy says they also want their employees to have fun. Through the Stine Bucks program, employees are awarded for activities like faithfully showing up to work each day and being recognized by a customer. They can then use the Stine Bucks to purchase different items.

Wendy also created Culture Club, where once a month, store managers report to the rest of the management team about the employee engagement activities taking place in their stores, such as ice cream sundae parties and snow cone days. One store even bought a foosball table for the break room and hosts foosball competitions. These monthly conference calls with all Stine managers help keep employee engagement top of mind for the leadership team. The meetings also provide helpful ideas managers can duplicate in their own stores.

“Our stores are fairly large, so we have associates who don’t know each other and may not work with each other even though they’re in the same building,” Wendy says. “These activities are allowing employees to get to know one another and have fun together.”

Community is another Stine core value, and Wendy says she makes certain the company is making a positive impact whenever it can. Donations and volunteer time don’t just come from the corporate level; team members in each of the stores are also encouraged to participate.

To engage its employees in community endeavors, Stine created its “Helping Hands” volunteer organization, which reaches out to provide volunteer assistance to a variety of organizations like the Muscular Dystrophy Association, area food pantries and children’s programs. Wendy created a Stine’s Helping Hands newsletter that is delivered quarterly to employees and highlights what the program has been doing and the ways it has helped the community.

Personally, Wendy participates in several local events and serves on several boards.

“One group I am passionate about is the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway,” she says. “It’s been a very rewarding experience to help raise money for children battling cancer.”

Innovating for the Future

With over 75 years of history behind it, Stine has avoided complacency and embraced innovation to stay relevant for customers. Wendy says innovation can be tricky and costly, but it has been a part of the company’s strategic plan for many years.

“We’re always looking at technology and how it can benefit us, and we’re not afraid to do our research,” Wendy says. “You can’t get stuck with what you have. I am consistently doing my research and seeing what’s available to help us grow.”

Stine recently upgraded its point-of-sale system and added autonomous robots to the stores to improve price tag accuracy, detect out-of-stock products and see gains in operational efficiencies and productivity. The company has a retail website for customers and is in the process of creating a website exclusively for contractors that will include pro pricing and templates for them to be able to quickly and easily shop.

Whether it is on the pro or retail side, having an online presence is crucial to compete against big-box and online retailers, Wendy says.

“We have to continually meet the shopping demands of our customers,” she says. “In today’s world, e-commerce is one of those demands. Whether you manage your own platform or partner with your distributor, it is extremely important to provide an easily accessible online experience for customers.”


Celebrate With Us

Meet the Top Guns Awards honorees at a reception on Aug. 29 sponsored by the National Hardware Show. The reception will be part of the Independent Home Improvement Conference taking place Aug. 27-29. Learn more at ihiconference.org.

 

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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