In an age when it may be easier for graduates from Western New York institutions to find a job outside the area, one UB graduate made it a point to stay close to his roots.
Joseph Wales ’99 is vice president of W.G. Arthur Co. Inc. a family-owned hardware store located in Orchard Park, N.Y., known as “Arthur’s” to most residents of this close-knit community 10 miles outside of Buffalo. Wales has been working for the company since high school and continued throughout his time at UB.
The stay paid off for the School of Management graduate, because he is now third-generation partner of the 100-year-old company. Founded by the store’s namesake, W.G. Arthur, CEO Tom Morrow, Arthur’s grandson, asked Wales to stay and become store manager after graduation. With résumés and job offers in cities like New York and Boston, Wales said, “Against my parents’ and then girlfriend’s (now wife’s) advice, I decided to stay and I have never regretted the decision”
With working close to 40 hours a week at Arthur’s, commuting to UB and taking a full course load, Wales found little time to be involved in extracurricular activities while a student, but he found the academics very rewarding. “The education is what I remember the best, a lot of what I learned in the classroom made it a smoother transition for me to step into a management role at this company.”
Wales’ academic experience in finance and management has helped the Orchard Park institution survive when new home improvement chains such as Home Depot and Lowe’s are dominating the majority of hardware and lawn-care retailers. It takes a keen business sense to keep a small hardware store in business, and Wales has proven he can do it. When most “mom-and-pop” outfits would see their profits drop dramatically in the face of such stiff competition, Arthur’s has maintained its standing in the community and has been gaining in profitability every month since the opening of the Orchard Park Lowe’s in 2005.
“People in the industry (say) when Home Depot or Lowe’s comes in; they see a 30 percent drop. We didn’t see a drop in sales, our growth just got stunted,” he said. “Everyone has to go see it but after they learn it’s just another big box, they come back and that’s how it’s working.”
Wales implemented many of the businesses practices to keep sales up and the business evolving. For example, when he became merchandising manager in 1999, he rearranged the entire inventory, enlarged the store and added new fixtures that enabled him to increase the inventory by up to 50 percent. As a result, the store saw an “off the chart” growth every year after. He also knows the value of attention to detail and customer service. He knows his customers’ names and “what kind of lawn mower they have in their sheds.” His challenge is to maintain that attention to detail for future generations. To do so he implemented a new movers program, in which he sends newcomers to the community a welcome letter that includes a store gift certificate.
Known to some in the community, as “Mr. Orchard Park,” Wales has been sure to stay highly involved in the community. He serves on the board of the Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce, the Academy of Finance program and Career Exploration Internship program for the Orchard Park School District, the Boys & Girls Club of Orchard Park and is a past board member of the Orchard Park Business Association. “People joke when they see me and call me the ‘Mayor of Orchard Park’ but I truly love this place and I have the opportunity to stay here the rest of my life.”
Written by Jessica Griffin