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Joe Hufford, J.L. Hufford, Co-Owner

The July 23 issue of HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® features the 19th annual Impact Merchants special report. Housewares suppliers, representing the categories that HomeWorld covers, once again were asked to nominate buyers and merchandisers believed to have made a significant impact during the past year.

The selection of the 19 Impact Merchant winners is not intended as a definitive list of the best merchants in housewares retailing. Votes went to several more merchandisers than those featured. This year’s honorees represent buyers in given categories that received the majority of votes by vendors polled.

Voters were asked to give added weight to merchandising creativity, trend and marketing astuteness, attention to detail, openness to risk, flexibility, relationship building and the ability to deliver a profitable program for both the vendors and retailer while providing value to consumers. One thing this year’s Impact Merchants share is a vote of respect by their vendors. In today’s unpredictable retail environment, that vote really counts.

Joe Hufford, J.L. Hufford, Co-Owner

Founded in 1991 as a coffee and tea shop by Joe and Wrena Hufford, J.L. Hufford has since emerged as an emporium of gourmet kitchenware, ranging from cookware, kitchen tools and gadgets, gourmet foods and, of course, coffee, tea and all of the various accessories that go along with the category.

Vendors recognized Hufford’s business acumen, first taking the plunge in 2002, expanding his brick-and-mortar shop into an e-commerce business that included a few high-end coffeemaker brands. Today, the store also has found success with an Amazon shop. Once that took off, Hufford further tested the waters and brought in additional gourmet housewares categories beyond coffee and tea.

“Once we expanded, we found a niche with higher-end coffeemakers, such as Jura. We noticed that if our customers are willing to spend thousands of dollars on a high-end coffeemaker for their home, they may also be willing to jump into high-end cookware,” said Hufford.

Following his instinct, Hufford brought in brands such as Le Creuset, Mauviel and Swiss Diamond. While the store has become a go-to spot for such brands, Hufford is always looking to try new brands, such as American Clad and Finex, two newer brands the retailer has added to its inventory.

One vendor said, “Joe is an aggressive, out-of-the box marketer. He is dedicated to finding the right products that he can position in a unique, distinctive way. He also works hard to find the right team members and gives them the opportunity to have a voice and succeed. Additionally, he is very committed to the growth and development of his own website.”

Hufford has focused on revamping of the website this year, one that brings a more enhanced experience. For example, Hufford and his team regularly share recipes and how-to videos to help tell the story about the products the store carries. For Hufford, the store is about taste, and how using the products he carries can help a consumer prepare better tasting foods and drinks, he said.

Another vendor noted that Hufford continues to look ahead in all aspects of business, including what technology can bring to the industry: “Joe is aggressively seeking ways to incorporate personal experience multimedia into his social media and marketing campaigns. He wants his audience to see the products in action and know what they can create with the products he is focusing on.”

2018 HomeWorld Business Impact Merchants (click on name for profile):