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2016 Young Retailer of the Year: Travis Hellvig

2016 Young Retailer of the YearUnder $2 Million in Sales
Hartford Building Center, Hartford, South Dakota
Operations Manager

Travis Hellvig was a junior in high school when his parents purchased Hartford Building Center in 2008. As a result, he had the opportunity to observe and participate in much of the work that went into developing a business plan and setting up the store. He expected that, someday, he would gradually take over the family business when his parents retired, but that transition came sooner than he expected.

Six months before Travis was scheduled to graduate from South Dakota State University in December 2013, his father suffered a stroke that prevented him from working. Travis committed to managing the store with his mother while finishing his college degree.

Travis’ father had a second stroke a year later, and it became evident he might not return to work at the store for a long time. Travis agreed to take over as operations manager and keep the family business alive.

Those first few months proved that Travis could handle the pressures of business. While his father was in the hospital, Travis had to manage all aspects of the store while continuing to develop important skills, such as learning to use the CAAD program so the business could still offer architectural design services to customers. At the same time, Travis was planning to get married and helping care for his younger brother while his mother stayed with his father in the hospital.

During that time and in the years since Travis took over the store, the business has thrived and sales have increased, with the store posting record high sales in 2015. To help the business grow, Travis has continually looked for ways to improve the efficiency of operation. For example, he streamlined the delivery process to save fuel and personnel costs. He also helped create two custom door and decking displays, which have increased sales for related products.

Besides being an efficient businessman, Travis is also known for his involvement in the community. Since May 2011, he has been a member of the local volunteer fire and rescue department. He is currently an assistant fire chief. This year, Travis is on the board of directors of the Hartford Area Development Corporation, an organization that focuses on the economic development in the community. He is also a member of the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce.

Travis also believes in the importance of sharing his industry knowledge with the next generation, and is active as a volunteer for Junior Achievement, a nonprofit business education organization that works with local elementary school students. He teaches children about entrepreneurship and business. He and his wife, Erika, currently coach a fifth-grade boys’ basketball team.

Travis also had a hand in creating a new tradition in the Hartford community: the Hartford Hometown Christmas event. Travis and his family had the idea and helped start the holiday tradition in 2011, and the event has grown to attract thousands of people each year. The all-day event helps raise money for various causes in the community, while providing a day filled with activities for all ages, such as horse-drawn wagon rides, a parade and fireworks.

Travis has also been integral in organizing, promoting and running the store’s farmers market. In addition to providing a location for local vendors to sell their wares, Travis also invites fundraising groups to serve a meal each week during the farmers market hours to raise money for their organizations.

His many business achievements and dedication to his community and the independent home improvement industry are among the reasons Travis is being honored as an NRHA Young Retailer of the Year.

Watch Travis’ video here.

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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