Forging on: Loyal customers, flurry of home projects help Cummington Supply navigate pandemic

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  • Cummington Supply owner Gus Perkins, left, chats with carpenter Pete Anderson of Worthington while Jessica Glover, center, writes up his purchase Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Employee Faustynn Jaracz stocks items at Cummington Supply on Friday, Feb. 26. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rick Arabia works in the lumberyard at Cummington Supply on Friday, Feb. 26. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Steve Buckley, left, a longtime employee, and Cummington Supply owner Gus Perkins stop to talk during a slow moment at the Main Street business on Friday, Feb. 26. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Longtime employee Steve Buckley comes through the front door at Cummington Supply on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rick Arabia works in the lumberyard at Cummington Supply on Friday, Feb. 26. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cummington Supply is located next to the fire station on Main Street on Friday, Feb. 26. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A customer enters Cummington Supply on Friday, Feb. 26. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A community bulletin board hangs on the front porch of Cummington Supply on Friday, Feb. 26. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 3/3/2021 3:12:35 PM

CUMMINGTON — At the start of the pandemic Gus Perkins, the second-generation owner of Cummington Supply, wasn’t sure how it would affect his business. Then, a whole lot of people started building.

“Everyone was sent home and started doing projects,” Perkins said.

He also noted the large number of chicken coops and garden beds the business helped to design.

“It was truly impressive the number of people who went home and started projects,” he said.

Now, having successfully navigated the pandemic so far without any layoffs, Perkins is looking to the future.

Perkins’ parents bought Cummington Supply in 1974, and he worked at the 18 Main St. hardware store and lumberyard off and on until he purchased it from them two years ago. He’s also spent time working for general contractors, and he says this experience has helped him in his work at the store.

“The practical knowledge is hugely helpful,” he said.

Perkins said that some of his best memories with the store involve working with his parents as a child, and when his parents took lunch he would mind the cash register.

“My payment was 10% of anything I sold. For that half hour,” he said.

Cummington Supply’s customer base stretches across western Massachusetts.

“Our typical footprint is probably from Heath to Huntington to somewhere close to Pittsfield to Hadley,” he said.

When they deliver farther afield, it’s typically supplying contractors. However, Perkins said he also gets satisfaction from serving the local community.

“The opportunity to help people put projects together and help figure out problems makes it worthwhile,” Perkins said. “The ability to be here and part of the community and support the community ... makes a big difference.”

Typically the store has six employees, counting Perkins.

Perkins’ 18-year-old daughter and 23-year-old son have both worked at the store in the past, although they don’t do so presently. Perkins’ son still works in the hardware business, however, employed at Avery’s General Store in Charlemont.

“What I said to him is, ‘Go experience other things,’” Perkins shared, saying that he told his son that this would give him something to compare the store against when he returns.

Perkins revealed that the prices of building supplies have gone up during the pandemic, particularly lumber, and that it’s become more difficult to get materials when people need them.

“The business model’s changed a little bit,” he said. “But people are still building.”

Customers at Cummington Supply can open accounts at the store, and pay them off at the end of the month. Perkins said that this helps both the store and customers with cash flow, and helps contractors keep track of what they’ve purchased.

One of Cummington Supply’s long-term customers is Plainfield auto mechanic Jamie Wooldridge, who has been going there for 15 years.

“They have great product,” he said. “They’re super nice people.”

Perkins said that he is focused on employee retention going forward. He’s putting together an employee handbook, and plans on setting up retirement accounts for his workers.

The longest-tenured employee at Cummington Supply is Tracy Granger, who has worked there for 34 years.

“Everybody gets along,” Granger said.

Another of Cummington Supply’s employees is Matt Nartowicz, who has worked at the store for more than three years. Before that, he worked in the construction industry.

“The people that come through here are nice,” he said. “As far as customers go they’re not so bad.”

Nartowicz, of Plainfield, started out in the lumberyard, before an accident outside of work left him out of work for six months. When he returned, he moved into working up front in the store.

Nartowicz also revealed how Perkins kept him on payroll while he was recovering from his accident.

“I didn’t miss a paycheck,” he said. “That’s what kind of guy he is.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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