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million dollar popcorn machine

The Million Dollar Popcorn Machine

Hassett Hardware has seen expansive growth and success in the six decades since it opened, going from one location in 1957 to now six locations across the San Francisco Bay Area. President and owner Eric Hassett contributes much of that success to the people who make up the operation and a strong company culture. A big part of Hassett Hardware’s company culture is empowering customers and being open to new ideas, Hassett says. 

“We are an open-minded and change-oriented organization,” Hassett says. “And not just change for the sake of change, but change that moves us forward. There is a danger in continuing to do something just because you’ve always done it.”

This ideal is exemplified in the journey of Ismael Quevedo, now power equipment manager for Hassett, and the story of what Hassett now calls the million dollar popcorn machine. Quevedo started with Hassett Hardware eight years ago as a high school student, joining the team as a sales associate. 

“At many places, he probably wouldn’t have made it through the interview process because he didn’t have the right look,” Hassett says. “But he came into the interview at Hassett with a smile and the right attitude, and we hired him.” 

Quevedo’s first day working on the salesfloor was on a busy Saturday, and the popcorn machine broke. Serving customers popcorn while they shop is part of the experience at Hassett Hardware. So the store manager at the time, Jacqueline Fenton, who now works as the company’s chief operating officer, called Hassett and asked if she could order a new machine. 

Overhearing Fenton and Hassett’s conversation, Quevedo asked if he could try to fix the machine himself. 15 minutes later, the machine was repaired, and the store was serving popcorn again. Fenton took note of Quevedo’s initiative and ability to repair items and asked him about it at their next one-on-one meeting. 

At Hassett Hardware, managers strive to meet with each employee at least once a month, and while these meetings include some discussions around work, they are mainly an opportunity for each manager to get to know their employees better, Hassett says. 

Through Quevedo and Fenton’s conversations, it came out that he loves working on motors. Quevedo told Fenton he was working on fixing up an old car, and he wanted the job with Hassett Hardware to earn money to buy parts for his car. 

“Jacqueline latched onto that nugget of information that Quevedo loves working on motors and thought maybe he would like working on STIHL products, so we got him started on repairing STIHL products,” Hassett says. 

Very quickly, Quevedo took his store, which was doing poorly in STIHL sales, and boosted revenues and created a following of customers who relied on him for repairs. 

“Again, Jacqueline took notice and asked Quevedo if he had the desire to grow even more,” Hassett says. “When he said yes, she promoted him out of her own store, sacrificing a great employee and moving him to a store where he could build the outdoor power equipment department and grow as an employee even more.”

Quevedo came through again, building an even larger following of repair customers and increasing sales. Because of the empowerment Hassett and Fenton gave Quevedo, a few years later he approached them about expanding outdoor power equipment (OPE) into its own space.

“I told Jacqueline that if he’s got the initiative and entrepreneurial spirit to launch this thing, I’d look into it,” Hassett says.

Hassett found a location across the street from the operation’s Half Moon Bay location and opened up a 6,600-square-foot space for OPE. In the year before OPE moved to the new space, Quevedo had sold about $500,000 worth of OPE, and in the new space with his own shop, he did $1 million in sales in the first year.

“I like to call this story the million dollar popcorn machine because here’s a kid who may or may not have made it somewhere else,” Hassett says. “But because our culture is so focused on communicating, getting to know the employee and understanding what drives them, we now have a thriving outdoor power business.”

Hear More From Eric

Discover other ways Hassett Hardware’s strong company culture and willingness to embrace change have led to its success at the 2023 NHPA Independents Conference Aug. 2-3 in Dallas. Eric Hassett is a 2023 NHPA Top Guns honoree and will be joining his fellow honorees for a panel discussion and reception, sponsored by STIHL and the National Hardware Show. Learn more and register here.

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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