Hamilton Parker makes big bet on the longevity of bricks and mortar
In today’s retail world where online sales are growing rapidly, store owners may find themselves feeling wary about investing in their physical spaces. Don’t count Adam Lewin among them. The third-generation owner of Hamilton Parker recently made a seven-figure investment to overhaul the Leonard Avenue showroom where customers come to find masonry, tile, garage doors and fireplaces. In creating beautiful displays designed to inspire builders, architects, homeowners and designers of all stripes, he pushed all his chips on the company’s future and on the city it has called home for 85 years.
“This is a big bet on Central Ohio,” Lewin says. “I did it because I totally believe in what this city has going on. It’s also an investment in our people and our industry.” The renovation is indicative of Lewin’s progressive business style that’s anchored to the customer experience. His perspective has been shaped by the knowledge he gained from working in the business as a child and learning from his father. That, plus a focus on evolving with the times is aimed at cementing Hamilton Parker’s future.
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Opportunity to get better
Hamilton Parker’s roots can be traced to the heart of the Great Depression in 1934 when the owners of Hamilton Parker Fuel and Supply sold their store on Vine Street in Downtown Columbus to I.H. Schlezinger & Sons. Schlezinger’s daughter and son-in-law, Gertrude and Alvin Lewin, ran the coal business and later purchased it for $500.
Milton Lewin, Adam’s father, took over the company, which diversified away from coal to sell masonry and bricks in the late 1960s. Over the next three decades he would add fireplaces, tile and garage doors. As a child in the 1980s, Adam Lewin spent his summers in Hamilton Parker’s brickyard where he stacked products, picked up trash and cleaned trucks. After graduating from Bexley High School and Indiana University with an economics degree, he joined the business in 1996 and worked alongside his father for 10 years before Milton passed away.
Nothing could have prepared him for what came next—the Great Recession, the banking and housing crises and sales tanking by 42 percent. “You remember certain conversations during those times,” Lewin says. “It was ironic, someone quoted my godfather Irving Schottenstein (co-founder of M/I Homes) as saying, ‘You need to be better coming out of this than going into it,’ ” Lewin says. “I know we did that.” To keep the business afloat, employees worked reduced schedules of 32 hours a week. There were no layoffs. Lewin also brought expenses in-house by buying blades so company trucks could handle snow removal and giving hours paid to a cleaning company to employees who wanted extra work.
‘A happy warrior’
Christie Miller, Hamilton Parker’s COO, says the Leonard Avenue showroom isn’t the only example of Lewin’s progressive nature. The corporate culture is appealing enough that more than 20 of the 155 workers have been there for more than two decades. And the leadership team is stocked with women and Millennials. “Five years after I started, the warehouse manager left and I talked to Adam about learning more about the business,” she says. “I applied and learned from the ground up with the guys in the back, including how to use a forklift. I don’t know if a lot of people have that opportunity, but I had that chance to learn from the people who knew best.”
Robert Schottenstein, CEO of M/I Homes, is Lewin’s cousin and the business is an original client. He says Lewin has a legacy in the community, including serving as a longtime mentor and board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters and ongoing support of Pelotonia. “He’s full of life and a happy warrior,” Schottenstein says.
Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO.
1865 Leonard Ave.
Owner: Adam Lewin
Business: Retailer of masonry, tile, fireplaces and garage doors.
Revenue: Would not disclose.