While the retail scene frequently evolves with new players and methods of doing business, the leaders behind Maschino’s, a company specializing in selling outdoor living products and fireplaces, take pride in reaching 70 years old this year – an age they note most locally owned retailers never reach.
Nancy Dornan has accrued 50 years of experience as owner of the store her father, E.J. Maschino, started in 1952 as Maschino’s Hardware Inc. She took over in 1972 following his death. The shop opened in the Wedgewood Center, which Dornan says was Springfield’s second-ever shopping center. It has called 1715 S. Campbell Ave. home for the entirety of its existence.
“It’s a specialty store,” Dornan says of Maschino’s, which owns roughly 20,000 square feet of showroom space among four buildings, as well as an adjoining 6,000-square-foot warehouse on the property’s backside. “At the specialty store, people come to where you are. It’s a destination. What started as a single hardware store has morphed in time into four buildings in this shopping center and a wide variety of products.”
The product lineup has adjusted over the years to the changing marketplace and customer needs. The initial hardware store products expanded by the 1980s to include wood stoves, fireplace screens and patio furniture. The store’s housewares section also grew to include a bridal registry, Dornan says.
“At one time, we had 157 brides registered. We had crystal, china and housewares,” she says. “That went away as the patio furniture grew.”
When the hardware inventory was sold in 1987 to Glen Block True Value Hardware, Maschino’s product mix expanded to include casual indoor furniture to go with its patio furniture, fireplace accessories, bridal registry and gifts, Dornan says. The business underwent its first name change at that time, becoming Maschino’s Home Expressions. It later changed to Maschino’s Home Express but is now known simply as Maschino’s.
“It’s evolved as the needs have been recognized and met,” she says. “Every new market presents different opportunities, different knowledge, different ways of working with customers.”
General Manager Greg Nutting is a 42-year employee at Maschino’s, noting he’s accrued roughly 25 years of management experience after starting with the company in the hardware department. He says there has been a lot of product location flipping in the store over the years.
Today, most of the fireplaces, firepits, accessories and outdoor furniture are on one side of the shop, while outdoor space heaters, grills and accessories fill much of the other side. The area in what staff refer to as “Building D,” one of two spaces formerly occupied by MaMa Jean’s Natural Foods Market, is still a work in progress to display products to customers. It’s mostly hidden by a curtain as overfill from the warehouse fills much of the room.
“We’re trying to go over into D and make it a ‘knock your socks off’ showroom, where you’d have cornhole toss, outdoor pool table, shuffleboard, putting green, grill island, pavilion, etc.,” Nutting says. “We’re going to try and put attention to that in 2023.”
Nutting says the store’s current top sellers are gas logs and firepits.
Mike Keating, president at Minnesota-based Alert Distributing Inc., says his company distributes indoor and outdoor products to 14 states and has supplied items such as grills, gas firepits and remote starting systems to Maschino’s since 2013.
“They are a great company to deal with. In the volume they do with us, they’re definitely in the top 5%,” he says of the weekly orders Maschino’s places, declining to disclose figures.
Although Maschino’s was considered an essential business at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Nutting and Dornan were concerned that business was going to slow. Instead, as people retreated to their homes, it turned out to be a sales boon.
“It’s been nothing but crazy sales. We were still able to hold for those years close to 9%-10% per year in growth,” he says, declining to disclose revenue for 2020 and 2021.
Nutting says that roughly 10% revenue increase is even after adjusting for the cost of goods, which he says has been up roughly 15% since the pandemic’s start.
Aside from this year marking a significant anniversary at the business, Nutting says it also is set to be a record for Maschino’s.
“This year will be our best year ever as far as sales and probably income,” he says. “We always look for the niche of where we can do the most business. Our competitors may not service a lot of their older fireplaces. They just want to replace them. We will service all different brands – even ones we don’t sell.”
That dedication has led to a backlog, Nutting says, adding there are plans to soon hire another technician and invest in at least an additional service vehicle. Service calls are currently booking out to mid-January.
“People are still willing to wait for us,” he says. “But at the same time, we’d really like to shorten that.”
As she marks a half-decade of ownership, Dornan, 77, says she’s not quite ready to retire. Yet, she is focusing on the company’s future beyond her tenure but wants to keep plans quiet for now. “We’re developing some succession planning,” she says. “We have things in the works.”
Adrianna Norris became a first-time business owner with the opening of Finley River Chiropractic; PaPPo’s Pizzeria & Pub launched its newest location; and Huey Magoo’s opened its second store in the Ozarks.