Kelloggs & Lawrence hardware and mercantile store and Charles Department Store both have new leadership in Westchester.
Noting that Kelloggs & Lawrence is more of a community hub for Katonah residents than just a hardware/mercantile store, new owners Jamie and Jonathan Steckler have jumped into their new calling “headfirst.”
The couple took over the store — which has been in existence under several names since the late 1800s — in October 2020. The previous owners, Bart and Diana Tyler, had been the faces of Kelloggs & Lawrence for almost 25 years. The Stecklers, who live in neighboring Ridgefield, had both been working corporate jobs and looking to buy a small business for a couple of years, according to Jamie, who says, “We were enamored of this place from the start.”
Noting that the hardware industry has benefited from an increase in people staying home and new homeowners moving to the area, Steckler says the store’s great team has allowed them to weather the glitches the pandemic has caused. “The chain of supply has been spotty at times, and we’ve had to work to find replacements for some of our favorite lines,” Steckler says. She notes the store’s ethos is “about problem-solving and helping customers get what they need; we always try to give a positive option.”
The couple has made some changes in the layout of the upstairs merchandise, to open up the aisles (especially important during the pandemic). “We didn’t come in with any grand plans; we want to learn the store and the business,” she says. So far, in a nod to the dogs who come for visits, that’s meant expanding the pet-merchandise category.
The Stecklers say the store’s mission over its many years has not changed: “Customers come in expecting our staff to be helpful, welcoming, and accommodating.” Jamie notes that especially in the past year, a store such as Kelloggs & Lawrence has become more than simply a place to shop.
In a way, Kelly Raneri is going back to the future as she takes the reins as fourth-generation owner of Charles Department Store. This year, the store will revert to a single-story operation (it had branched out to two stories in 1980) as Raneri looks to “continue to offer the customer service, handpicked merchandise, and fostering of relationships that shoppers have come to expect.”
Raneri started at the neighborhood institution, founded in 1924, when she was 14 years old and has been at the store full-time since 2009. “I’ve been trained by my dad and my uncle for over two decades,” she says. While continuing certain family traditions, Raneri realized early on the importance technology was going to play in the store’s future. In 2015, she computerized the store’s inventory, “which revolutionized how we interacted with our merchandise.” Raneri also notes that sowing those seeds six years ago has proven especially vital over the last year: “I can bring work home with me and communicate with both customers and vendors over a variety of platforms.”
Looking forward, Raneri is moving into e-commerce, which is one of the reasons the store is able to shrink its footprint. “I can’t be the face of the business and operate both downstairs and upstairs,” she says. Other changes include integrating the clothing department, which Raneri has cultivated for a decade, with such merchandise as bakeware and footwear. Raneri is also “playing with other ideas”: She’d like to expand the private collection (there’s a line of Charles’ men’s shirts), and her “big dream” is to design a small collection for the store. “My grandfather used to say that regardless of what’s happening in the malls or with Amazon, if you have your doors open and are nice to customers, you’ll stay in business.”