AUSTINTOWN, Ohio — Lisa Springer had no plans to become a business owner in a male-dominated industry when she started working at Power Tool & Supply in 1985.
“Did I think I was going to end up doing this when I started? No, I didn’t,” Springer replies to her own question as she sits in her office on the company’s second floor at 3699 Leharps Drive in Austintown.
Springer worked as a secretary while attending night school at Youngstown State University, where she earned a business degree.
When a delivery truck driver job for the company opened up, Springer jumped on it. “I didn’t like sitting behind a desk,” she says. “I became a Power Tool truck driver.”
Afterwards, much of the business sold supplies and equipment to local Packard Electric factories. Today, Springer says the company is boosted by local projects such as Ultium Cells’ $2.3 billion electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Lordstown.
“It was a real breath of fresh air for us,” says Springer. “We have seen the collapse of all the steel mills. We have seen all the Packard factories leave.
Power Tool & Supply celebrated 60 years in business in 2021. What has helped the company persevere through several economic downturns and industry exits, according to Springer, is the company’s diverse customer base.
Power Tool & Supply sells hand tools and large equipment and serves nearly every industry, Springer says. “There was a period when federal courthouses were under construction. Then there was a period of building sewage treatment plants and then schools. Right now, fortunately, we have Lordstown Motors and the battery factory.
Power Tool & Supply began in 1961 when Ron and Paul Jones opened the original store on Indianola Avenue in Youngstown. Springer’s father, Jim Mizicko, became a partner in 1963 with a fourth partner, Bob Blazer, who joined in 1965. “That’s how it was for many years,” Springer says.
In 1995, Ron retired and Springer moved from delivery driver to outside sales, where she worked until 2013.
His father retired in 2002, followed by Blazer in 2008. When the last remaining partner, Ron’s son Jim, retired in 2013, Springer became the sole owner.
“It’s a male-dominated field,” says Springer. “It was more the case in the 80s and 90s and now there are a lot more women in the trades and I think that’s a good thing.”
Still, Springer has a male partner in her business, her big dog, Nash, who accompanies her to work every day and can often be found lying right outside the doors, waiting to greet customers.
“Even if I don’t come to work, he insists on coming. So I have to drop it off and then come back and pick it up,” says Springer.
Power Tool & Supply employs 18 people, many of whom have been with the company for decades.
Marlene Hrycyk started as a secretary in 1979 and now handles accounts payable. “It’s very difficult and every day you learn something new,” she says.
Dave Schneider, a salesman at Power Tool, worked in construction before joining in 2006. He says his motto for the store is, “Don’t sell them what they want.” Sell them what they need.
And the way you do that, he says, is to get to know the customers, especially since a lot of people have different words for the same tool.
For example, he remembers a man coming to ask him about a yo-yo. “What he’s actually looking for is a pneumatic impact,” says Schneider. “There’s a big learning curve for the lingo.”
Springer says they’ve seen a slight downturn in business during the pandemic. “Everyone seems to be busy now,” she says.
The company’s biggest problem is dealing with supply chain issues that make it difficult to obtain products. “We’ve been ordering products since last April and we still haven’t got them,” Springer says.
Another issue is how quickly prices are rising. Springer says Power Tool & Supply sales increased in 2021, but the price swing also squeezed margins. “Usually quotes are valid for 30 days. We dealt with people with good quotes for, say, seven days and some people wouldn’t even give you a quote.
To cope, Power Tool has been placing larger orders and restocking earlier than usual. The company has also looked to other manufacturers for products, especially anything that runs on gasoline, which Springer says is very hard to find.
Springer says its four outside sales reps are staying busy and walk-in business is also steady, so much so that Springer is looking to add space to allow it to expand the showroom, repair department and the warehouse.
“We don’t have room for everything anymore,” she says. “I think we could also use more employees.”
Power Tool & Supply serves customers in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys, Ashtabula and Cleveland area, as well as New Castle, Greenville and Mercer, Pennsylvania.
Basically, everywhere you look in the area, you’ll see a project, be it a bridge, building, or road, that Power Tool has provided the tools to help you build.
“We provide things that make it easier for these people to do their job or what they need to do their job,” says Springer. “It is very enriching.”
Pictured: Lisa Springer became the sole owner of Power Tool & Supply in 2013.
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.