Meet Your Merchant: Matt Pine, Ajax Supply
For this month’s Meet Your Merchant, the Snowmass Sun sat down with Matt Pine, owner of Ajax Supply, to learn about the village hardware and supply store and see how business has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis:
Snowmass Sun: So how long have you been running Ajax Supply?
Matt Pine: You know, it’s been since 2014. That’s when we kind of got the ball rolling but we’re going to have our five-year anniversary in August.
SS: And how long have you been in Snowmass village?
MP: I’ve been here, off and on, since 2002. I’m originally from LA but my family’s in Nevada. I moved out here when I was 16 and never looked back.
SS: And what made you want to start a hardware and supply store in the village?
MP: I was working as a handyman and I felt like I did more driving than I did working. And I don’t know, maybe I’m a pushover and too nice of a guy to bill for all my drive time. So, there’s one day where I’ve been out for 10 hours and I only had about four and a half billable, and my wife’s like, “Why are you only billing for four and a half hours, you’ve been working for over 10.” And I said, “I’ve been sitting in traffic, you know, going back and forth to Aspen, and part of it was totally avoidable.” … I spent a lot of extra time driving to Aspen because I needed more stuff so I just said, “You know, this driving is killing me and I just really wish somebody would open a hardware store.” And that kind of got the ball rolling, me wishing somebody else would do it.
SS: And what has it been like running the store? What sort of need do you feel like it’s filled for the village community?
MP: I try to fulfill every need I can in here. If you look around at our inventory it’s kind of a little bit everything, and we’re planning on going more that direction. We’re planning on getting into pet supplies and office supplies just because there’s nothing else in town and people hate that drive (into Aspen or elsewhere) when you only need one or two things. The less you need, the more annoying the drive is.
SS: Totally. And so as you know, the Snowmass Center is going to probably going be redeveloped in the next few years; how do you hope to see this store continue to evolve and grow moving forward?
MP: I’m kind of excited about it because I would be very prominent, ground level, very easy to find. I would get customers that I don’t get right now. People have to seek me out and track me down to find me. Some of my customers sound like they crossed the Sahara getting here, you know? They get so lost in the maze of hallways. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to the new space, I think it’s going to help me a lot.
SS: Do you see yourself shifting what sort of inventory you have here, or what are kind of your goals with what you plan to offer moving forward?
MP: I listen to my customers. Whatever they tell me I need is what I carry, 90% of what’s in here is done by customer requests. I started with the things I thought they needed and then it’s evolved into what they actually wanted. They tell me what to get.
SS: How have things changed and shifted for you guys since the COVID-19 crisis started?
MP: I mean, the first couple months were kind of depressing. To be honest, I was wondering if we were going to make it. Our bank account just took a massive hit and we started borrowing a bunch of money and it’s like this is not sustainable. This doesn’t look good. So after about two months it was really scary and then the construction ban lifted and things started turning around. I would say over the last two weeks business has really jumped up.
I have quite a few friends in the restaurant world and if they survive it will be kind of a miracle, you know. I’m in a much better position than a lot of the people and I’m grateful for that.
SS: During a time like this when there is a lot of uncertainty and no one really knows what’s going to happen. Why do you feel like it’s important to have a store like yours, open that people are used to coming to?
MP: We’re the only place within 50 miles probably that has n95 masks and one of the only places that has latex gloves and one of the very few places that still has sanitizers. We’ve kind of evolved with the virus based on the need, and we’ve been going through different channels and just doing whatever we can to stay in stock of those things that people can’t get anywhere else. That’s important.
We’re just here to make people’s lives easier. That’s our whole mission.
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What happens when the usual mental health fixes aren’t working the way they used to?