Letter to Graduating Seniors

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I was asked by a local publication to share my best wishes & advice for the current graduating class of 2020. This was my first narrative after my grandmother’s passing in May. I am so thankful that Brian Carlton asked me to do this because I lacked the motivation to write anything after her death.

I’m grateful to a few friends who were willing to share their thoughts & ideas with me as I went through this writing process. Thanks for being my tribe 💕. I hope y’all enjoy the letter to graduating seniors.

Senior Class of 2020,

Congratulations! What an amazing achievement you have just reached in life! I am so very happy for each and everyone of you! As a retired teacher, and now a local business owner, I know how hard each of you has worked in order to get to this day! Your greater community is so very proud of you.

So what happens next in your educational and life journey? The world today gives us a perception that times are too uncertain. Please know that your decisions are all within your circle of control. You have the ability to control your words, thoughts, actions, choices, behaviors, & efforts. I do realize these historic and unprecedented times are not how you envisioned your graduation. But, now is the time to celebrate your achievements, cherish your school memories, and look ahead to the future. Dig deep within yourself and find that inner strength to focus on potential opportunities for your future.

Speaking of new opportunities, some of you might be thinking of heading off to a university, community college, or possibly even in the “world of work”. No matter what path you take in the next few years, you will continue to evolve, change and grow as a young adult. Learning will be a constant in life.

As you transition into the next phase of life, here are a few reflective life learning experiences that I have found to be helpful in my journey. I hope you can use these 7 tips as insight & encouragement for your future endeavors.

1. Treasure those in your life. Love your “tribe of family & friends” fiercely. Nothing is guaranteed or promised in this world. So that being said, stay connected, call home! Visit home as much as you possibly can do it. Your family is a very important part of your journey & they will be your biggest advocate.

2. Keep life simple. Experiences & memories in life are the things you will always have, possessions will not last.

3. Dream BIG! Set goals for yourself. Life is not a sprint, it is a journey to be enjoyed & cherished. When you set a goal, understand it may take years to fully achieve, & be patient with yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

4. Show kindness to yourself & others. Let this one sink in for a minute. Life is not a perfect process. We all learn from success and failure. Be gracious & extend kindness in all things you do. Remember to say “thank you”, “yes ma’am”,& “no sir”. A kind heart goes a long way in our world.

5. Connections in life are important. The people you meet & encounter in life will sometimes circle back into your life via work, church, friends, or even into family circles. Use compassion, grace & understanding in difficult situations.

6. Find and develop your skills & talents. What are you passionate about? As you grow and change, your interests and inspiration can create new opportunities. Be flexible. Be willing to adapt to new ideas and change.

7. Last, but not least, keep your body strong … mentally and physically. Let’s elaborate. Reading as an adult helps your mental capabilities, increases vocabulary skill set, & can improve memory. Reading for information is a powerful tool. Become an independent thinker, read and form your own opinions about news, politics and the world around us. And remember, it is ok to disconnect from your devices and unwind at the end of the day. Reflection is an excellent way to disconnect from the daily grind and evaluate what is next. In those quiet moments (in the car, spiritual time,journaling, etc) allows you to evaluate your goals, make decisions about goals…is this the path I still wish to take? do I need to adapt my goals, what did I learn along the way? In essence, you can learn from your success & mistakes.

And finally, be physically active…get outside when you can, enjoy the natural world around you, it is good for your overall health.

My final parting wish to you today, “may you be richly blessed in your journey ahead”. Your greater community is excited to see how your success will continue to add to our future growth in the years ahead.

Sincerely,

Angela Searcy

Co-owner of Wilkes County Hardware

Expectations and Grace

Expectations & Grace

Recently, I was watching an old episode of Happy Days. In this specific episode, Howard Cunningham came home from work (owning a hardware store) and I was stunned to remember that he wore a 3 piece suit to work everyday!!! I actually did a double take… thinking to myself, “is this for real???”

Richard was not home, and once he arrived, the first thing I hit him with was my immediate reflection from that past episode. He kinda chuckled and we both giggled at the absurd thought of Richard or I dressing the same way for a day of work at our Hardware store.

Our dress is always casual and we dress for the weather… hot or cold. Typical day of work could mean exposure to, “100 year old dust”, kerosene, pool chemicals, and of course our wood stove is active in the winter. It just wouldn’t be practical to wear a 3-piece suit. Our customers would not “expect” to see our staff dressed that way. Expectations…. here are some thoughts on this subject today….

Expecting a specific outcome usually leads to disappointment… who has had that experience?? All of us right??? Our minds are powerful objects which can “project expectations” upon people and events. Other times, we can even create our own heartbreak through our own expectations.

Regardless of the circumstances,

I have had “expectations” placed upon me as a woman working in our hardware store. As a full-time owner now, I have encountered this more times than I ever wished would happen.

Some folks who maybe first time customers, enter the store, then I welcome them, and they immediately look for a male employee to help them, with the “expectation” that I can not find what they need. Here are three typical outcomes of customer interactions in our store when these “projected expectations” are visible….

1. Customer pleasantly surprised to see that I can get what they requested.

2. Unsure of where potential item is located( as a side note- we have so many different types of products… I’m still learning what is actually inside this very old hardware store!!!!)so I may go ask where something is located, and I can then, go get what the customer needs. If the item is unavailable, we send our customer with ideas to try next… recommendations of other local spots to find that specific product .

3. On occasion, the request is such a specialized item that I do turn the customer over to another staff member- who has vast knowledge in a specific area to assist them.

Sometimes the reactions from the customer/ regardless of their gender, is overall pleasant interactions. The “expectation mold” is shattered like a key “unlocking a new mindset “.

So why is this a problem today??? Do we have these preconceived notions/expectations about how people should be based on what they do???? Or how they will react???

I will be perfectly honest, I’m a little stumped by “old mindsets” / expectations. Has giving/showing grace to others regardless of what is “expected from them” gone by the wayside???? Is this mindset rooted in past experiences???? Hmmm… I wonder how life would be so different if we all used this philosophy of showing grace in all circumstances???? So what is grace???

Grace is defined as an exhibition of kindness, mercy, favor disposition to benefit or serve another. The older I become, the more I think these two things should go together… expectations/grace.

Let’s develop this concept a little bit further. As an educator for 25 plus years, the education world spends a lot of time talking about expectations: specifically, setting high expectations of students equal more learning opportunities.

I always wanted my students to do their very best. As a teacher, “expectations”(standards for learning) of my students were consistent and high. I also tried to exhibit grace and kindness on days students were having an “off day”. But that did not mean the standards of learning were less. We were always working together to achieve that nice balance of expectations vs. grace.

So I am wondering, the balance of expectations vs. grace is this a life learning experience???? Are we up to the challenge????

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival

If you are a local, you know the first Saturday in October is always the date set aside for the annual Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. This year will mark the 42nd year of festivities 🍎🍎🍎. It has become a bit a tradition for folks in these parts… either you flock to downtown North Wilkesboro and embrace the festival or you ignore the downtown area totally. There is not much in between. People either are ritual followers of Apple Festival or not. As a downtown merchant, we are in the first category. We love it! 🍎🍎🍎🍎

It is a unique way to experience the festival through the eyes of a downtown merchant. After purchasing the hardware store in 2015, we were told by our existing staff that they tended to close early on Apple Festival Day— they always worried about people asking to use the bathroom. We found out pretty quickly that it was not the case. In the past few years, only a handful a folks have ever asked to use our restroom. It was not a legitimate reason to close our doors to a very captive audience who are ready and willing to flood inside our doors to browse around and shop.

Many people who are Apple Festival 🍎goers return to our store to shop each year because they love being in our store. We love to see them each year. There are certain items they have come to expect to find in our store- Mrs. Hanes Cookies 🍪 for example…

It takes loads of preparation for Apple Festival. Usually at the August Hardware show, we always try to target some of our new product offerings to be in store by Apple Festival Weekend. We are well on track this year.

This year a few of our local artisans will be in store to talk to our customers as they are shopping. They get to see their products in store. Now our customers can put a face/name to a specific local artisan. I am hoping for a great showing for all!!!!

The morning of the Apple Festival 🍎 many craft vendors come inside our store to purchase last minute items they may need to finish up the setup process. That takes lots of planning on our end, & we have made a coordinated effort to stock essentials that might be needed- from the proper fire extinguishers, sharpies, duct tape, tarps, extension cords, etc.

Finally, that preparation is executed on the day of Festival… we arrive early to serve those vendors early- we set up our store beginning around 5:30am so we are ready to go, and we will work a long day- closing our doors as the festival breaks up and clean up begins.

Apple Festival is a big day, the crowds are usually big, and we love to see a full downtown. As a downtown merchant, it makes for a full heart ❤️ to see the streets packed with people and activity. Are you ready for the Apple Festival??? 🍎🍎🍎🍎

Hardware 101

Since my retirement as a teacher, my role has changed dramatically at the hardware store. I am continuing to learn more about the day to day business of hardware. It has been a great adventure of learning new things in the last few months. I have met many “new faces” of some of our regular customers that I did not normally get to see everyday. Here are some of my big take aways from the last few months of “Hardware 101”.

  1. Richard and I spoke with a new Orgill sales Rep. this week and he summed it up the best way, “Hardware is hard, honest work or it would be called “easyware” instead of hardware.” Some days are laborious, new stock to move around, truck days- stock replenishment… but when the work is done, it feels like a great accomplishment!
  2. The Midwest Fasteners display is like a huge “jigsaw puzzle”. For those of you who are not familiar with this company, it is a lot of bolts, screws, washers, etc of all shapes and sizes…. When a customer comes in the store to find that one single bolt to replace what they need- it like recreating a puzzle, it is magical once you find the right piece.
  3. Our staff- Wow!!! I am working with a team of guys who really do love what they do. I am so thankful that we all just work together to get things done,  & we can laugh together.
  4. My role as a business owner is evolving and changing as I continue to learn more and more about the business. Richard is extremely knowledgable about all components of the business. I am the “new entrepreneur” in the mix. I am doing “all things merchandising”with helpful input from the staff of course. New product acquisitions, local artisans contacts are continuous in our business and these folks are becoming our WCH family as well. We have been blessed to work with some fabulous local artisans!!!!  My role as the social media person has been ongoing since we purchased the business in 2015, and that is a daily task that I still enjoy.
  5. Our day to day customer base is amazing!!!!  I have met some great people who work hard everyday doing incredible work in all types of fields. We try to listen to what our customers need and wish to see in our store. New products are sometimes driven by customer demand and need for a product.
  6. We provide some amazing services to our community. Where else can you go in Wilkes to find all these services under one roof???? Pipe cut/threaded, glass cut, tool handle repair, kerosene heater wick replacement, knife/tool sharpening, pool water testing, window screen repair
  7. KEYS- what can I say… we do lots of keys for our customers, and they keep coming back because our keys work. Wayne does a fabulous job making our customers feel welcome at WCH.
  8. Our store layout has evolved over the last few years. We are still working on tweaking where products sell most effectively and what is convenient for our customers. We are continuing to look at product lines that are performing well and not so well.
  9. Locally sourced products are important to our customers. We sell local honey, bbq sauce, handmade soaps, knitted dishcloths, to name a few. The shop local attitude is strong amongst our customer base.
  10. And finally, “Love what you do, do what you love” is the most important thing to remember… and I am loving what I get to do:)

Summer of 2019- A New Chapter in the hardware life…

Labor Day is over and this year the end of summer feels very different. I think you will be able to see as you read along today. It has been a life altering kinda summer for me and our business.

I officially retired as a teacher this summer. My “work” focus is now focusing on being a business owner in our community, which has opened up new avenues for creating change in our town and community.

Many people don’t fully understand why I would leave a state job early, so here is the deal—-It had become increasingly difficult to do both, teach & help with the business effectively, and be a Mom.

Honestly, Mom is my most important “job title” and I need to be there for the “big stuff.” This is the first year ever in his entire school career that I have the ability to pick him up/ drop him off at school. Of course I know it won’t be for long, because his drivers license is coming around the corner.

Before my retirement, I had struggled with my decision for quite sometime whether to continue to work and do both, but now I am at peace with my decision to leave my life’s work. In essence, I have just added a new passion to my life- hardware store life. Don’t get me wrong, I miss that look when students learn something new. I’m just turning the page on a new chapter…

Speaking of new chapters… Richard and I both turned 50 this year!!! A milestone birthday 🎂 So far 50 is great!!!!

So enough about all that personal stuff!!! Here is what we have been working on inside the store…

Below is a top 10 list of some of the wonderful things that has been going on inside our store:

1. Pool season has been in full swing and will be winding down soon for most pool owners in the next few weeks. Richard and Luke have kept a few neighborhood pools cleaned, & chemically safe for swimming. I can not tell y’all how much work and time this requires of these two!!!! Pool owners, I bet you understand. The fellas have worked every day to keep these pools clean 7 days a week!!! 😎

2. Richard and I spent some time at the Chicago Orgill Hardware Show this August looking at new products to offer up to our customers. Hardware shows are lots of fun and I may do a different post on that later.

3. This summer we also added several new locally made products to our store! These items have been received well by our customers and people keep coming back to purchase these items. We are very proud to offer these to our customers.

4. Some of our readers maybe aware that we made some staffing changes this summer. We are consistently heading in a positive direction to move into a new level sales, services, & great customer satisfaction for our community. Thank you for your patience and support as we all learn new skills😉

5. The first annual Harry’s Hotdogs was a huge success!!!! This was a absolutely amazing event to see people pouring into our store to eat a hotdog and remember Harry on his birthday. The funds raised went to North Wilkesboro Rotary Club- serving our local community

6. Wilkes County Hardware teamed up with Keegan Watson – local woodworking craftsman, during the Wilkes Art Gallery Art Walk Event this summer. It was great to see so many people in downtown North Wilkesboro

7. I’m still trying to figure out where my skill set fits best inside the store… I mostly work on merchandising, new product acquisitions, social media, and I have just started out learning some of the financial end of the business. My husband is invaluable in this business!!! He is a super busy guy😉.

8. Since we are a small hardware store, when new products arrive, we have to make “space” for new items. It is a challenge!!! We have been trying to find places for these new items and clearance items that are not moving. Inventory is always on our mind🧐 By the way , Eddie did a great job this summer moving some key products to new locations. It looks awesome!!!! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

9. Our office space upstairs is coming along!!! We are so happy to have this quite space to work! We have more shelves and walls to paint, but our work areas are clearly defined👍🏻

10. FYI: we have a few new projects that we are seriously looking at, I have spent some serious time with these ideas this summer so stay posted for more details later this fall!!!

Here’s to the new chapter in the hardware life!!! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉Richard and I are working together as a team now to make hardware happen every day for our customers. Y’all, I am just gonna say, that is a very satisfying feeling!