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Tom Richert: An entrepreneur who doesn't stop

Original post made by Jeb Bing, editor of the Pleasanton Weekly, on Jul 20, 2012

It's quite a stretch from the tony venture capital investors' offices along Page Mill Road in Palo Alto to a lumberyard in Pleasanton, but Tom Richert made that move in 1976 and is today one of Pleasanton's most successful entrepreneurs. Now, 36 years later, he had enlarged his prominent corner business at Sunol Boulevard and Valley Avenue into a 15,000-square-foot hardware store under the nationally-known Ace Hardware brand name. A walk through the spacious store, where Tom and his son and partner Matt work with the rest of the staff to sort some of the 50,000 pieces of inventory now being sold at Richert Lumber (yes, the name continues) shows what a daunting task it is to run a modern-day hardware store.

Tom is a long-time lumber and landscape businessman who's comfortable talking house siding, cabinets, plywood quality and other materials with construction crews and do-it-yourself homeowners. Bird houses, coffee makers and some 60 or more power tools that are now part of his Ace-brand merchandise are moving his lumber and landscape business in a new direction. Fortunately, in this age of computerization, the Ace franchise (actually its a co-op) comes with teams of specialists who bring in products based on geographical studies, apply the labels, arrange the shelves according to customer convenience and interests, and then leave the selling, service and promotion to the Richerts. From a $1.99 U-bolt to top-of-the-line water-saving plumbing, Richert believe he can compete head-to-head with the big box stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot in terms of pricing and even better when it comes to serving the Pleasanton market which he serves.

Richert and his wife Anne aren't your typical local lumberyard couple. He holds Masters' degree in Business form Cal State Hayward (now Cal State East Bay) and found work in a local lumberyard at a time when jobs were hard to find. He then joined a major chemical firm's three-man financial team on Page Mill Road where office real estate at the time was among the most expensive in the world. Anne, meanwhile, used her degree from UC Berkeley to join the management team at Atari, one of the early computer game companies. They married in 1970 and it was just a few years later, when Tom get the itch to go into business for himself. With Anne's encouragement, although Tom recalls that her father was less than pleased, Richert Lumber was born. They sold their Peninsula home, bought the empty lot where Richert Lumber now stands and moved themselves into a rental home in the Val Vista neighborhood. Tom bought an 8-foot-by-10-foot building and moved it onto the site which he proudly called his corporate headquarters for the next five years, selling landscape products at the start. First days sales totaled $19.95 and $5 on the second day, he recalls, but business picked up after that.

Matt was the couple's first child with two more to follow: Amy, who handles an Arizona state tourism office in Scottsdale, and Dan, who is in the music business in Los Angeles. Matt, who with his wife Amanda and their two young children live in Pleasanton, as do Tom and Anne. Anne's active in the Tulancingo sister city organization program. Active in community affairs, the Richerts through their store also sponsor boys and girls athletic teams with the Richert Lumber logo a familiar site on Pleasanton sports fields.

Besides pictures of Little League and other sports teams lining the walls at Richert's store, framed photos there also offer a visual history of Pleasanton from 1976 forward. When the business opened, the city's sewer treatment center was just a few yards north on Sunol Boulevard; there we no homes or businesses across the street, where the Pleasanton Weekly office is now located; gravel trucks pounded the pavement on two-lane Sunol on the average of one a minute, Tom Richert recalls, and Vintage Hills and Mission Park homes were just being planned. Of course with the building boom just getting under way in Pleasanton, a landscape business and later a lumberyard proved a bonanza for the Richerts, who once called Page Mill Road and the Peninsula their home.

Comments (14)

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Posted by steve
a resident of Parkside
on Jul 20, 2012 at 11:03 am

Love that store. You could literaly spend an hour walking around the store noticing all the wonderful items you don't absolutely need, but would love to have. It's like a local hardware store on steroids.......in a good way.....
I just wish they were open on Sundays, as well.


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Posted by Congrats!
a resident of Amador Estates
on Jul 20, 2012 at 11:43 am

Hearty Congrats to Mr. Richert! Many many kudos. He has built a remarkable business and in the process created many many private sector jobs, improving our economy, and contributing to making America great.

Unfortunately, Obama would not agree however. He strongly believes that Mr. Richert is not responsible for his success. Obama, Stark, McNerney, Pelosi, Gov. Brown and other democrats will work a bit harder to put more obstacles in Mr. Richert's way. Remember, Obama said he needs one more term to "get the job done" (i.e. of destroying private sector businesses and destroying capitalism).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Libby
a resident of Lemoine Ranch
on Jul 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as irrelevant to this thread.)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shopper
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Thank you for the story. Richert is to be applauded and recognized for all the drive and effort needed to create a successful enterprise. Good job.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Weekend shopper
a resident of Amador Estates
on Jul 22, 2012 at 1:03 am

And they are not even open on Sunday! Good work!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stephanie (Ricker) Schmalz
a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2012 at 7:41 am

Awesome article!

I went through Pleasanton Leadership with Matt (2006) - great guy and a great family.

Contrats to you all!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sara
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm

The key issue is he bought this land pre-building boom, and rode that wave to glory!

They've done great keepig up with the times and they're also cutting edge on top of things (thinking of their digital keyless entry locks!!)

Regarding the Obama comment, I'm sure the Richerts would agree they didn't do it alone. City government / building permits,planned neighborhoods, planning ... all things that contribute to Pleasanton being desirable and also a higher end city contribute nicely to their clients being able to afford good tastes, and having nice properties they don't mind investing in. Win-win.


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Posted by liberalism is a disease
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm

liberalism is a disease is a registered user.

Funny, sara. I'm sure Mr. Richert thanks govt everytime he has to stand in line for permits, inspections, regulatory audits, tax filings, labor reports, EEOC reporting. With obamacare, he can look forward to even more invasive reporting and procedures, somewhat akin to going through a colonoscopy.
But I bet he's grateful for the roads and bridges that lead to his building, since we all paid for them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Mission Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I shop in this hardware store. They are a stand up business. I purchased an outdoor lighting fixture that has a motion detector. It stopped working several months after purchase. They replaced it with no hassle even though I had thrown out the receipt.

On a side note. Why politicize this nice article with the comments above people??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sara
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm

You're correct Lisa, it's a shame politics entered the conversation, but on the bright side, perhaps setting - up & running a business by jumping through all the legal hoops and paperwork loops keeps the competition & cut-throats down, which in effect is a positive for Reichart as their great customer service, and inventory make them by far the best choice in Pleasanton and beyond.


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Posted by Sean
a resident of Sycamore Place
on Jul 25, 2012 at 6:43 am

Wait! If govt regulation is SO onerous, how did this company make it? Sounds impossible to me. Since we live in California, and we have nothing but liberal loons for politicians and a Marxist for president, just how to explain this thriving business success? It appears there are people out there like Richert who didn't get the message. Instead of claiming victim status and boo-hooing environmental and safety regs, he simply went forward with a stand-up company. Go figure!


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Posted by liberalism is a disease
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 25, 2012 at 8:45 am

liberalism is a disease is a registered user.

Sean, how naive are you? (That was a rhetoric question).
It's obviously not impossible, it's just made intentionally more difficult that it needs to be. You've obviously never run a business, nor have you witnessed the exodus of businesses from California. But that's OK, let's take regulations to the extreme and see what happens to our state's economy....oh, wait, it's already too late.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sean
a resident of Sycamore Place
on Jul 25, 2012 at 8:58 am

No LiD, I disagree. I think it is possible for companies to survive and thrive in today's world. Their success probably hinges first on having employees who know how to spell and write grammatically. You may be a bit out of your depth on this issue. Sorry about that. Thought about remedial education? Thinking often is a direct reflection of one's writing prowess or lack thereof.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rita Zumwalt
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

I'm asked to choose between Tom Richert's success and "Liberalism is a disease's" assurance that California makes businesses fail. I'll think I'll choose the success model over some oddball who plays the victimization card and who thinks that liberalism is a disease. Not much of a choice, to be honest. (Wish there was some sort of mental stability test for some of the posters I've been reading since moving into Pleasanton.)


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