Summer finally decided, just a couple of weeks ago, that it was time to leave Memphis. Fall made an appearance but winter must have coerced him into leaving early because we went from 90 °F to temperatures in the mid-thirties over the span of about ten days. One of the few positives I saw in this brief time of transition was finally getting the chance to light up our fireplace which had been sitting unused since last year. As if it weren’t painful enough that fall found Memphis rather undesirable, the fireplace decided it had been neglected a little too long and refused to be part of our Winter Welcoming Party. We had a consultation with an “expert” who informed us we needed parts a, b and c for everything to work again. I asked numerous neighbors and acquaintances where I might find these parts and get some help with repairing the flameless fireplace. One establishment came up repeatedly: Hamilton’s Fireplace, Grills and Casual Furniture on Summer Avenue. So my husband and I went to Hamilton’s, prepared to purchase parts a, b and c. We walked out with nothing, but so much more than we expected.
While I browsed the store and became fascinated with their selection of Big Green Egg grills (they even have a mini egg used for tailgating!) my husband spoke with Jim Hamilton about our fireplace. Jim, a member of this family whose business has served Memphis from the store’s location on Summer since 1980, asked a series of questions about what was happening. With each answer there was a consequential question and by the end of it all he politely informed us he could sell us the parts we were there to purchase but would advise against it, for now. He explained why and also told us a few things to try with the fireplace that he believed would solve the problem, without us having to spend any money. My body language gave away my suspicions about this “sales angle” and Jim, keenly aware of such, told me as we both laughed at my surprise reaction, “I know this doesn’t make sense. I know this is different than you were expecting. People come in all the time and don’t understand when I tell them to not buy something.” But, he continues, he refuses to do business without being 100% honest and will not lead someone to purchase something they may not need just to put more money in the cash register. Yes, this is a for-profit business, he says, but more importantly it is about the people they serve.
We went home, followed Jim’s advice and…our fireplace has never worked better! A few days later I returned to Hamilton’s, excited to share this news and eager to thank Jim for giving so much of his time and guidance, asking for nothing in return.
As he and I talked an elderly couple approached. Mr. Hamilton greeted the gentleman and, though he did not recall his name, did recall the last time they were in the store- about five years ago. He asked how the gentleman’s family was doing, how his fireplace was functioning. Above all, he asked how the gentleman himself had been, as he appeared a bit fragile. When the couple walked away, with Jim’s promise that he would be with them shortly, he turned to me.
“Could you tell he wasn’t feeling well?”
“Did you see the difference once he felt I really cared? The shoulders came down.”
“Yes. I actually saw and felt the change in energy.”
I really did. During their conversation I saw that gentleman’s face brighten up and though still appearing weary, he stood a little straighter and stepped forward with a bit more strength. Then Jim asked me, “Now what if we all did that every day? What if we all took a little time out of our day to make someone else feel better? The world would be a much different place, wouldn’t it?”
If you’ve wondered whether a company can be profit-based yet people-focused, Hamilton’s has given you the answer: yes. When someone truly sees and believes that you care about them more so than what you can get out of them, not only will they patronize your business but they will want their children, grandchildren, extended family and friends to do so as well. For Jim, there is no price tag high enough on that sort of multi-generational gift.
Hamilton’s is located at 4462 Summer Avenue in Memphis. For more information on this locally-owned, family-owned business, please visit their website at www.hamiltonsfireplace.com
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