Member Profile: Friedman’s Home Improvement

Written By: Brytann Busick
Published: June 1, 2019

From foundation to finish, Friedman’s Home Improvement stores have been serving Sonoma County residents for 73 years.

The family-owned and operated home improvement business supplies products for contractors, DIYers, and agriculturalists alike. Need a gallon of paint? Looking to remodel your kitchen? Have a line of fencing that needs to be fixed? Friedman’s has you covered.

“Our strength is in having that breadth of product,” Friedman’s President and CEO Barry Friedman said. “Our stores are full of everything from rebar, lumber, windows and doors to the plants you put out in front of the house, the doormat, and the mailbox.”

In addition to lumber and building products, Friedman’s also has agriculture-based products including water storage tanks, stock tanks and field fencing. They even have a dedicated sales team just for agriculture.

“We’ve always had a strong tie to agriculture from a supply side because there are so many diverse farming and ranching operations in Sonoma County,” Barry said. “Serving the ag community is a big part of us serving the overall community with what it needs.”

Barry said that Friedman’s is a Sonoma County Farm Bureau member because he understands the vital role that agriculture has had in shaping our county.

“Our agriculture customers have been very loyal to us and we have a great relationship with them,” Barry said. “Farm Bureau membership is our way of supporting the greater agricultural
community within Sonoma because it’s part of our roots from a product standpoint and part of the health and viability of the county overall.”

The successful Sonoma County staple has stores in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sonoma and Ukiah, a distribution center and corporate headquarters in Petaluma, and a distribution yard in
Windsor for job site deliveries.

Friedman’s planted company roots in 1946 when, after returning from World War II, brothers Benny and Joe Friedman used their GI money to start a junk and general supply store in downtown Petaluma. They then incorporated their business as Friedman Brothers Hardware in 1963 and opened the flagship location in Santa Rosa in 1971, just across the street from their childhood home. In 1976, the brothers closed the old dilapidated Petaluma store because the insurance company wouldn’t insure it anymore.

“The second generation of leadership came when my dad and my Great Uncle Harry took over in 1985,” Barry said. “They opened up another store in Sonoma in 1993 and in 1996 they opened a store in Ukiah.”

In 1999, Harry Friedman retired, and Bill Friedman became the sole proprietor of the company. With the new millennium, Friedman’s underwent a business transformation, changing its name from Friedman Brothers Hardware to Friedman’s Home Improvement, changing the company color to green, and remodeling several stores.

Although Barry said he started working at Friedman’s during his summer break when he was just 8 years old, after graduating college he worked as a white-water rafting guide in Montana, on a NASCAR team, and traveled the country before returning home to Santa Rosa in 2004 to join the company and to learn the business again from the ground up.

“I started with the same new hire orientation that all employees complete, worked as a cashier, and learned the business from all aspects,” Barry said.

Barry became president, CEO and third generation of leadership in 2013.

“My dad and I are ownership partners and he currently serves as Chairman of the Board,” Barry said.

What sets Friedman’s apart? Barry said that it’s all about people.

“Bottom line, we put people first,” Barry said. “Our responsibility, first and foremost to the community, is to be a great employer.”

This mentality is reflected in the company’s mission statement, “to deliver the human side of home improvement.”

“You can differentiate based on product in some ways, but here at Friedman’s we have a high standard for the people we bring into the team,” Barry said. “We have a lot of long-tenured team
members who care about the customers and care about our team, our products, and our overall company.”

The family-owned business competes daily with national brands like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Barry admitted that home improvement is a very competitive industry. However, he said he credits the company’s 73 years of experience and strong connection to the community as competitive advantages that allow for Friedman’s decades of success.

“Being an employer of 630 people is a big responsibility. It’s really what gets me out of bed every morning,” Barry said. “I know that Sonoma County is not an easy place to live from a cost standpoint so providing good jobs is my way of helping our team members and the community overall.”

The Friedman’s team is known for knowledge and service within the store and service and support out in the community. Barry said that taking care of his team enables the company’s ability to serve. The company’s strong philanthropic arm supports local education, the homeless and hungry, and senior citizens.

Barry said that any community service project usually requires some material needs. That’s where Friedman’s is happy to step in and help out.

“We partner with other organizations in the community on several service projects and we put on a Friedman’s golf tournament every year that supports School Plus, which is a Santa Rosa City Schools organization,” Barry said. “Annually, we raise about $100,000 to support sports, music, and art in the Santa Rosa City School District.”

He said they support local agriculture youth by purchasing livestock animals at the fair and support several high school agriculture departments and 4-H Clubs in the county.

Barry said he is motivated to lay a strong foundation for Friedman’s future. He said that although it can be challenging to stay competitive in an ever-changing retail marketplace, Friedman’s is strongly rooted in its values and continues to emphasize the importance of taking care of people and the
community.

“We actually call ourselves a 73-year-old startup,” Barry said. “Even though we’ve been around a long time and been successful we know we need to continually take steps to evolve and transform.
We want to continue to serve the community for generations to come.”

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