By Lanier Laney
Local, friendly and family run are words that instantly come to mind when one thinks of Lady’s Island’s Grayco Hardware store. It’s one of the rare locally owned and operated businesses that over the years has expanded to several regional locations in the midst of fierce competition and inroads from massive national “big box” chain stores.
Success that many say is attributable to Grayco’s knowledgeable staff and the Gray family’s commitment to customer service. Says Herb Gray, “our customer philosophy stands true today as when my father started the company 49 years ago — we are dedicated to providing the best customer service along with making a new friend every day with our customers. It’s all about relationships and exemplary customer service.”
Store founder Richard Gray, born and raised in Port Royal, applied this philosophy at his very first job working in a filling station, the job that gave him the idea of starting an auto parts distributor business when he saw a local need for it. He called his first business Beaufort Muffler and Auto Supply.
The early years were very difficult along with many long hours but Richard credits the tremendous amount of support he received from his beloved wife of 51 years, Joyce Gray, a native of Barnwell.
Thanks to Richard’s hard work and dedication to his customers, the business evolved and grew tremendously from auto parts distributor to both retail and wholesale lumber and hardware suppliers to manufacturing. And the name changed to Grayco when they had reached multiple locations including Hilton Head, Bluffton and Ridgeland.
The second generation of Grays started joining the family business 25 years ago when Richard and Joyce’s children — Suzanne, Richard Jr. and Herb — brought with them their own talents, energy and commitment to customer service to help the family businesses to grow.
Today Suzanne and Richard Jr. run the commercial real estate business, while Herb is involved with the hardware and lumber division.
Herb says, “Grayco has been a growth company over the years but this economy has been quite a challenge. We are still committed to bringing the best quality products to the Beaufort community and truly believe that neither Home Depot nor Lowes can compete with our customer service and specific product offerings and we work hard to continually change up our products, especially in the retail stores, to meet our customers’ needs.”
As Herb heard customers asking for more home decor and gift items, he asked his wife of 17 years, Marjorie Gray, to be the buyer of that department two years ago. Since then, its growth and success with women has created almost a store within a store. Says Marjorie, “I think of Grayco as a fabulous hardware store first … with lots of perks! It’s nice to see couples come in and shop together. We really do have something for everyone now. We are launching a wedding registry in February. Brides can shop for well-priced china and entertaining items while grooms can register for power tools and hardware. Then, they both can register for outdoor furniture and boating equipment. In these tough economic times, it’s back to basics!”
Marjorie is no stranger to hardware stores, having grown up in Beaufort’s famous Fordham Hardware downtown owned by her grandfather Angus Fordham and her Uncle Duncan.
As part of the Gray family’s commitment to the community, they have been major supporters of many, many charitable events and organizations through out the years, from Habitat for Humanity to providing trees for Festival of Trees. Donations from the stores and almost the entire staff were heavily involved when ABC rolled into town for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
Santa will make an appearance at Grayco this weekend on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 12-4 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 4, from 2-5 p.m. “Please bring your camera,” says Marjorie. “Also, look for us in the Christmas Parade where we will be handing out special Christmas treats!”
Next year, Grayco will be celebrating its 50th year in Beaufort. Happy early birthday to a great store, a great staff and a great family that has added so much to the quality of life in Beaufort over the years.