Ed Larrivee came to Dover back in 1973, fully intending to run a liquor store with his uncle, but life being what it is, things didn’t work out quite the way he envisioned.
“Family members told me you should never go into business with relatives,” Larrivee said. “But I’d read about stripping and repairing furniture, so I decided to go into that. After a while my mother-in-law said I should add a line of hardware to the business, and that’s how it all started,” he said.
Almost 42 years later, Larrivee Designer Hardware still is going strong, still operating out of a former used clothing store and motorcycle/car shop at the corner of South Governors Avenue and West Water Street.
In many respects, you’re a mom-and-pop type store. How have you survived?
I know my customers. When someone comes in, I find out what they want, and I usually follow up the sale with a phone call. In this business, people are looking for items they can’t find in the box stores. I’m not in competition with places like Lowe’s and those other stores because I carry lines of hardware that they don’t.
What is your business philosophy?
I treat my customers like I’d want to be treated. I really mean that. I try to make friends with my customers so they’ll be happy when they leave. That way they’ll come back and see me again.
Based on your years of experience, what advice would you give to someone thinking of starting their own small business?
Keep it simple. Treat your customers fairly and sell things at a fair price. And if you make an appointment with a customer, or tell them you’re going to meet them somewhere, make sure you’re there.
What’s the best thing about having your business in Kent County?
Most people know each other. If a person does business with you, they pass that experience on to others.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever been given?
One of the things I was told when I opened was not to go trying to impress people. Work out of a cigar box. Keep your business as simple as possible. That sounds really corny, but it worked. I’ve never had big debts, worrying about paying for new chairs in my office or buying new carpeting.