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article imageOp-Ed: Customer service is alive and well at Cole Hardware San Francisco Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Apr 2, 2012 in Business
San Francisco - Some people say the days of good customer service are gone. Yet, Larry Karp and staff at Cole Hardware in San Francisco would disagree - at least as far as local business is concerned.
"I always have time for a customer, it is what I do," he said as he talked with this reporter after a luncheon presentation at the Bluxome Street office of McGuire Real Estate on March 21.
Karp was there to speak to the realtors and staff about the hardware store's "Re-Cole-mend" repair and referral services. "Everyone wants to know who is good and what is the best service out there for various jobs," said Karp.
He mentioned that for realtors this is especially so. Realtors no matter how savvy and well-connected always need to reach a contractor, a plumber and so on, in a hurry. "Things happen and someone is needed in a hurry. Even if they have a list of their favorites, sometimes they are not available at the moment, and so a referral is needed," said Karp.
Karp, who is manager of the repair referral arm of the business, knows from experience and this is why the Cole Hardware Repair Referral Service is available to help, even on weekends. "All of the vendors and trades-people in our referral outreach are pre-screened and carefully selected," said Karp.
"That's a fabulous resource that is very helpful to a real estate agent," said Regine Familet, who frequents the flagship store location on Cole Street. "I wasn't even aware that they could do that," said Dan Wexler, like Familet, he has been among McGuire's "Top Producing" sales agents for many years. "I love Cole Hardware, they are a great 'mom and pop' type of place," said fellow realtor Ana Menendez.
Karp does not mind that description. "Yes, we are a "mom and pop" type of place. "Our history here in the community goes back more than 50 years." Since 1961 when his father Dave Karp bought the hardware store on Cole Street, the business has never lost its family-owned integrity. Always eager to reach out to the community, in as many ways as possible, Cole Hardware's growth and longevity have been rooted in its commitment to quality and service.
With four locations city-wide and as an Ace Hardware cooperative affiliate, Cole Hardware can offer the best service and merchandise at reasonable prices. Karp noted that his father was first reluctant to join the Ace Hardware cooperative. Yet in doing so, this helped the Karp family to better serve the community with the ability to stock the shelves with items and merchandise directly from the manufacturer. This alliance helped Cole Hardware to grow and firmly maintain quality products and services at competitive prices. And, as Karp mentioned, "when the Ace representatives came out and watched my father sell, they signed us up immediately." The affiliation has proved beneficial on all sides.
Paul Mueller, who attended the luncheon-sales meeting that Wednesday, said that much of what a realtor does is making connections, getting things done quickly to help people with the sale or the improvement of their home. After many years as a New York City real estate broker, Mueller relocated to San Francisco in 2001. Having a reliable community resource is extremely helpful, "especially a friendly one," he said.
Karp had the opportunity to put Cole Hardware's referral to the test when realtor Dee Saroni called only four days after the presentation on March 25. "I needed to know where I might find the best place to purchase an HD-TV," she said. The staff at Cole Hardware had a shop in mind that would not only help Saroni find the best TV at the best price, but provide information on the latest technology that each make and model has to offer.
It is this kind of customer service that Karp is most proud of. After running his own furniture store in the East Bay for many years, Karp joined the family hardware seven years ago. The work ethic and customer service skills his father instilled in him, have served Cole Hardware's repair referral service clientele well. Yet as Karp said to this reporter, "never in a million years would I have dreamed that years later, I would choose hardware as my career," he said.
He took a few moments after the presentation at McGuire to chat and provide this reporter with a brief tour of the Cole Street location. Pointing up to the sign over the doorway, he said, this is what my dad always taught us and is what we still practice today: “There Are No Strangers Here; Just Friends We Haven’t Met!”
For more information about Cole Hardware's Repair Referral Service visit the web site; or call 415-753-2653.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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