Above, Andrea Ridout, owner of the eco-friendly Gecko Hardware with store mascot George the Rooster. Ridout says the Lake Highlands area store's reception has been outstanding since opening April 2013. Photos courtesy of Gecko Hardware.

July 21, 2014

By Rita Cook 

Last year, Gecko Hardware blazed a new retail trail when it launched a neighborhood hardware store that catered to the traditional homeowner while filling a niche for the eco-friendly crowd.

Recently that innovation was recognized when the Dallas-based home improvement store won the Beacon Award for the Best New Hardware Store in the Country in the under 20,000 square foot category for the annual Hardware Conference to be held in Florida later this year. The event represents more than 200 stores from throughout the United States and the largest gathering of independent retailers from all buying organizations in the industry. 

“Judging criteria includes community involvement, store design, merchandising displays, promotion activities, specialized product areas/niches, innovative retailing concepts, employee training/recognition programs, social media activity and financial performance,” says Tom Delph, director of the Beacon Awards. “If you know Gecko Hardware, you can see how well they have matched the above areas in a very short period of time.”

Store owner Andrea Ridout speculates that it was their unique spin on the the standard hardware store that won them the award. 

“We have tried to do something different by combining a conventional True Value with a green living supply that also has a fun and quirky atmosphere.”

According to Ridout, their formula of stocking green products side by side with old standards has been successful. She said about half of their customers are seeking items to fit their green lifestyle. However, many customers stopping in to pick up light bulbs or a can of paint are converted once they discover the eco-friendly alternatives on the shelves.  

“I love seeing a non-greenie customer when they have an ‘aha’ moment and they become a fervent supporter of organics, less chemicals, local products,” said Ridout.

Bestselling items include the Skeeter Screen Patio Egg, which Ridout says looks like an emu egg and emits a smell that people like, but mosquitoes hate. Gardening products are also popular, with the store selling several lines of organics. 

“Our compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs fly off of the shelves and local products are a big hit too.”

Some of the more unique items found at Lake Highlands-area venue include what Ridout describes as  “super cool” ball-shaped composter that can be rolled around the yard or on a stand.

“We also have several eco-friendly cleaners that are so safe you can almost eat them, low VOC paint in more than 1,200 colors and local honey that is not only delicious, but can help with allergies.”

Above, the Eco-composter. Below, honey from the Texas Honeybee Guild. 

Other items that move quickly from the shelves include local cookies, jams and teas, door mats made from the colorful remnants left over from making flip flops and recycled rubber tires, low-flow showerheads and faucets that save water, a chainsaw that uses vegetable-based oil instead of petroleum, a solar-powered security light that can be hooked up anywhere, canning supplies, nails made from recycled steel in Ohio and even Texas-based chicken feed with no GMO's.

A member of the True Value cooperative system, which has more than 5,000 independent retailers across the U.S. and worldwide, Gecko Hardware offers customers a huge selection of everyday and specialty hardware at prices that compete with larger stores. 

Ridout admits that they have done so well they are now looking for possible locations and investors to help fund more stores.

“The neighborhood especially has been so welcoming,” concludes Ridout. “I have never had such a warm reception in over 30 years of business. Our sales were strong right out of the gate and we have spent the last year really honing our selection to meet the needs of our customers.”

Rita Cook is an award-winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press. Contact her at [email protected].

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