"First of all I want to thank Brian Carver and Atlas 46. Without them we would never have come in contact with Rick and Steve," said Hillsboro Mayor Brian Sullivan during the city's official announcement that Hardcore Hammers would open their company's first storefront in Hillsboro. "This is all because of the introduction made by Brian Carver and Atlas 46, and I want to thank them."
The official announcement that Hardcore Hammers and Atlas 46 plan to open a shared storefront in Hillsboro was made during the Chamber of Commerce's E-Commerce Seminar on Saturday, Feb. 1. The store will be located on Main Street in Hillsboro next to Nzuri Boutique.
The American-designed and manufactured tool company has spent the decade since their founding in 2010 building their business online. The opening of Hardcore Hammers' first physical location is something that the owners, brothers Steve and Rick Spencer, have been steadily working towards since the company's inception.
"It is a really exciting time for Hardcore Hammers. Opening a physical brick-and-mortar location is something that we have been building to for a very long time and to be at this stage in our operation is an incredible feeling," said Steve Spencer.
While the Hillsboro location will be primarily geared towards retail, it will also be an integral part of Hardcore's supply chain with specific items to be filled out of the storefront.
The Hillsboro operation will also be in charge of manufacturing a couple of specific items. The new-to-Hillsboro business will generate a few jobs but the primary economic benefit will be in the Spencer brothers intent to hire area companies to take on production demands.
The company is geared towards the construction trades and manufactures specialty framing hammers and hatchets. Owners Rick and Steve have years of hands-on knowledge, both are framing carpenters by trade. In fact it was their trade that led the brothers to designing their original product, the Hardcore Hammer, and eventually patenting and marketing it.
"For over a decade and a half, we dealt with the aggravation of using hammers that did not hold up under every day use. Worse yet, when titanium hammers became available, the problem was all the more troublesome. The cost of those hammers was much greater, while the traction lasted only a fraction of the time that a steel waffle did, which was only a few months at best," explained Rick.
Spurred on by his increasing frustration with constantly having to replace hammers, Steve had an idea to place a hardened steel disc with the waffle formed in it into a cavity bored in the face of the hammer, recessed slightly from the smooth outer rim. He theorized that this would protect the waffle from coming in contact with anything but the nail being driven, thus extending the life of the hammer and reducing damage to finished products.
"When we made the first one it really didn't seem like a big deal at all. Our Dad (Richard Spencer)is a mold maker and can make anything precision out of metal. I brought my idea to him and he took me to his shop to make a prototype. We took an existing hammer and modified it to incorporate my idea," explained Steve.
His idea worked, inserting the (recessed) hardened steel disc, gave the hammer all of the advantages of both a milled faced and smooth faced hammer.
"I used it for about a year or so and it was awesome. I ended up telling my brother Rick about it and he thought it was a great idea."
A carpenter as well, Rick understood the need first -hand. He was the one who suggested that they patent the hammer and go into business. Where Steve was hesitant about the venture Rick really believed in his little brother's design and talked him into going for it.
"It was the best framing hammer either of us had ever used. The waffled face lasted longer than the rest of the hammer and we didn't have to switch to a smoothed face hammer for finish work," said Rick. "Steve wore out three hickory handles over the course of 18 months and his original hammer still looked like it had only been used for a few weeks."
After about two years, Hardcore Hammers expanded into designing and manufacturing hatchets, which quickly became one of their most popular products.
"Our hammers are designed for professional carpenters and really there are only so many carpenters out there. Sales were great, but if you produce a quality product that does not need to be replaced you eventually need another product to sell," Steve said amicably. "Rick made the comment that while the guys on the job site, carpenters, plumbers, HVAC guys, or electricians, don't necessarily need framing hammers almost all of them go hunting, fishing and camping on the weekends. What do they need for those activities, a hatchet. He suggested that we expand into creating hatchets to appeal to all of the tradesmen on the job site"
From the beginning, Hardcore Hammers products have received overwhelmingly enthusiastic reviews, praising both the quality and workmanship of the tools; and in 2014 Hardcore received the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award. As demand grew, larger retailers began carrying their products, including Atlas 46.
"Hardcore Hammers officially opened in 2010, we basically created the website, put our products up and started to generate sales that way. About two years ago we met the guys from Atlas and they have played a pretty big role in our company's growth," said Steve, explaining how the two companies developed their partnership. "John Carver stumbled across our products online and liked what we were doing. We are both geared towards the construction industry, Atlas with soft goods and us with hard goods, so the partnership seemed like a natural fit. Atlas began selling our products on their website. After about six months, John invited us to join them at the Las Vegas Tool and Hardware Show, from there our friendship developed. Brian has really been instrumental in helping us develop our online marketing"
Drawn to Hillsboro by their connection to Carver, the brothers made visits to the city, feeling out the area and getting to know the locals. They informally introduced themselves during Imagine Hillsboro's Storybook Christmas festival, through their Hardcore Splitter, a log splitting competition where they gave away a $1,000 grand prize.
"We aren't huge risk takers. We have gotten to this point by doing our homework and growing slowly. Opening the store is the next logical step in the growth of our company. We find ourselves at a pretty awesome point in our company, in that we are ready to grow and take some bigger steps.," said Rick during the official announcement. "We have envisioned doing a lot of big things and now we are at the point where we are ready to start implementing some of this stuff. We love Hillsboro. We have been here more times than we can count now and I have to tell you that everyone here has been a pleasure to meet and work with. You have rolled out the red carpet for us every time and made us feel at home. We are thrilled that our next big step has brought us here, to downtown Hillsboro."