It all started with a firing—a very foolish one.
In 1978, Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank were executives at Handy Dan, a home improvement chain based in Southern California. Despite the business being very profitable, the pair had begun to tinker with a new idea. By lowering prices, they found, the stores’ volume shot up, making Handy Dan even more money. The executives had planned to implement that strategy systemwide, but they never got the chance. Corporate raider Sanford C. Sigoloff—who liked to call himself the “Skillful Scalpel”—took over the company, and deciding to save himself two salaries, got rid of Marcus and Blank.
That one decision probably prevented Handy Dan from becoming America’s home improvement leader. Instead, that honor would go to a place called The Home Depot.
Recruiting investment banker Ken Langone and retailer Pat Farrah, who’d run National Lumber and Supply Company, Marcus and Blank opened up a one-stop warehouse destination with everything a homeowner could want, staffed by knowledgeable salespeople and all selling at discount prices.
“We believed from the start that if we brought the customer quality merchandise at the right price and offered excellent service, we could change retailing in the United States,” Marcus said in a 2008 interview with Entrepreneur.
As we know, they did just that. The first Home Depot opened in Atlanta in the summer of 1979. By years end, there were three more. Home Depot officially became the largest home improvement retailer in America by 1990, and today it has nearly 2,300 stores.
In recent months, Home Depot has been America’s go-to home center in ways it never imagined. After the pandemic sealed much of the citizenry behind closed doors, Americans made home improvement into a new national pastime. For Q2 2020, the chain’s net sales soared more than 23%