Hardy & Greys
The iconic fly fishing company, Hardy & Greys, sets up shop in central Pennsylvania.
In the fly fishing community, Hardy & Greys often draws comparisons to a Rolls-Royce. Everyone knows the name, few people have actually seen one, and even fewer have handled one.
"It has that kind of brand image," says Ray Zink, marketing manager of Hardy North America. "Hardy's history and tradition is unlike any other in the fishing community."
The history of the London-based professional fly-fishing company dates back to 1872, when William Hardy and his brother, John James, formed the Hardy Brothers Partnership and sold high quality guns, ranging from shotguns to pistols, in their hometown of Alnwick, Northumberland. But the brothers' love of fishing caused them to switch gears and soon they began selling rods and reels. In 1999, the company acquired Greys, a rod manufacturer founded in 1968 by a former employee of Hardy. In 2004, the company officially took the name Hardy & Greys Ltd.
The company's business philosophy was built on the principle of treating its customers with honesty and respect.
"Customer service is the secret to our success," says Zink. "We take care of our customers in the best way possible. Since we're all former retailers, we've been on the other side of the tackle counter and understand the problems shop owners face. With that knowledge, we are able to put together a more customer-friendly program than most of our competition."
Although several Hardy & Greys' products found their way to the United States over the years, the company is now offering its entire line to dealers. Last fall, Hardy North America, a new wholly owned subsidiary of Hardy & Greys, opened a 15,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center in Lancaster, Pa., from which more than 1,000 Hardy & Grey products—ranging from rods and reels to accessories and clothing—will be shipped to U.S. dealers.
Despite the current economic climate, Hardy & Greys felt that it was time to enter the U.S. market in full force.
"Sometimes you have to change your business model a bit," says Zink. "You have to go out, make the effort, and continually try new things, and that's what we decided to do here."
Although people have cut back on luxury items and are keeping a wary eye on their disposable income, Zink says that fly tackle equipment remains affordable.
"It's still the opportunity for someone to own the very best thing in a given category at an affordable price," he says. "Our best selling item in terms of units and dollars right now is the 2009 version of the Hardy Perfect, based on the 1927 Hardy Perfect, considered one of the best fly reels ever made. We took that design and made several improvements, yet still retained the original look and feel, including the traditional natural agate line guard. It retails between $800 and $900, pricey but attainable for those who absolutely must own the very best."
From its Lancaster location, Hardy North America, which staffs six employees, will service the entire North American and South American markets. Lancaster was selected over Baltimore, Richmond and other northeastern cities.
Choosing Lancaster was easy, Zink explains.
"Our managing director in England was already familiar with the area from having worked in Baltimore," he says. "Secondly, this part of Pennsylvania is very convenient for freight. We're very close to the interstate and close to the port so we could move goods quickly. Also, about one third of the population are within a few hundred miles."
Zink commends the state's Department of Community and Economic Development and the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce for their assistance during the site selection process.
"Pennsylvania, overall, has been great, but both of these organizations have been tremendously helpful," he says. "They have assisted us in obtaining and reaching out to contacts, and in certain cases, they have facilitated meetings. The Chamber of Commerce helped us find a good site and everything that we needed to locate here in Lancaster. We also received some assistance from the Department of Community and Economic Development. We appreciate all of their help."
In addition to the warehouse and distribution center, the company also has a museum/showroom showcasing many of its past and current products, meeting area for local fishing groups, and a 100-foot regulation casting pond for casting competitions.
"People will have the opportunity to come in and cast every other Wednesday to try out our rods," says Zink.
Eager to give back to the community which has been instrumental in its smooth transition to this country, Hardy North America is now a sponsor of the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing which is based in nearby State College.
"We felt that it was important for us to be active in the local community and to show them our commitment and dedication," says Zink. "You have to, especially in the current time we live in. People need to start working together and return to a sense of community."