Neal Hardware Co. - Opened 1911 – Johnny Neal, owner
723 Cotton Ave, Millen Ga 30442
Old fashioned retail hardware store selling hardware, lawn & garden, housewares, paint and sporting goods.
My grandparents started the business in 1911.
What inspired you to start your own business?
The hard work that my parents and grandparents put into the business inspires me to carry on the family tradition.
What inspires your work and what sets you apart from everyone else?
I feel like what is unique about Neal Hardware is the authenticity. There are not many stores like this left in the country.
What is your background and how did you develop the skills to start your business?
I graduated from The University of Georgia with a degree in economics. After graduating I worked at C&S Bank and The Georgia Dept. of Labor in Athens. I started working full time at Neal Hardware in 1990. My education, work experience and having grown up working in the store all added to my ability to run the store today.
What has been your biggest success to date?
I would say that my biggest success with Neal Hardware so far is being able to maintain a successful business while competing with Home Depot, Lowe's and Walmart.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been to have patience and optimism during economic downturns.
Which small businesses are you inspired by?
Thompson's Corner is a small business that inspires me. They are a magnet for business.
If you could go back to the beginning knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
If I could go back to the beginning I would have adopted a mindset of abundance and gratitude earlier on.
What’s your best advice for someone who wants to start their own business?
My advice for someone who wants to start their own business would be to find someone who already owns a similar business and do an informational interview. If possible do an internship in a similar business to see if that's really what you want to do. Also, study the surrounding market area to see if it's economically feasible then work hard and persevere.