Born to Sell: The Story of Our Founder, A.J. Richard
With sound judgment for business and love for the company, our founder, Alfred J. Richard (A.J.) (1909-2004), lead the charge in developing P.C. Richard & Son into what it is today. We continue to cherish and implement his key values of Honesty, Integrity, and Reliability that have become such an important part of our past, present, and future.
A.J. was born on October 11, 1909, the same year that his father, Pieter Christian Richard, opened a hardware store in Bensonhurst. It's often said that A.J. was "born to sell" as he's always had such a deep passion for customer service. At the age of four, he was already spending time with his dad in the store. "By the time I was seven, I was waiting on customers after school, becoming an all-round hardware clerk," A.J. once recalled. He had discovered his calling, which was to be a businessman.
In 1923, when A.J. was just fourteen years old, he dropped out of school after completing the ninth grade to work full time with his father in their relocated store in Ozone Park. With an instinctive feel for his trade and passion for customer service, he helped develop and foster a loyal clientele for his family's business. The ambitious father and son team grew their business and a strong reputation for reliability. As A.J. often put it, "Richard IS Reliable," words in which we still live by today. "I have protected and worked for those words all my life. You cannot just say you are reliable. You must earn that reputation each and every minute of the day, day in and day out," A.J. once described.
A.J.'s resilience, boldness, and determination allowed P.C. Richard & Son to persevere despite any hurdles along the way. For instance, after a disastrous fire in 1925, sixteen-year-old A.J. helped rescue P.C. Richard & Son by taking a leadership role in the rebuilding process and management of the store. A.J.'s knack for making wise business decisions led the company down the right path. Have you ever wondered how P.C. Richard & Son started selling appliances? A.J. began to develop a broader vision for the business. As the nation shifted from gas lighting to electrification in the 1920s, an array of home appliances began to surface. Thus A.J. started to sell appliances, which was the turning point for a truly remarkable business opportunity for P.C. Richard & Son. Clothes irons were the entry product, and the business later grew to include toasters, mixers, fans, waffle irons, meat grinders, and large appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators. A.J. was always attuned to his customers' needs and opportunities for sales. For example, he implemented payment plans, allowing all customers to be able to afford their purchases. By 1929, A.J. began selling Zenith radios in the store. He learned a lot about troubleshooting and repairing radios, which allowed him to offer his customers product service and repair. A.J. has taught us the importance of remaining aware of our customers' needs and delivering exceptional service, a tradition we continue today.
P.C. Richard & Son persevered through World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. Despite the economic downturn of the Great Depression, the business was doing so well that P.C. and A.J. enlarged the store, doubling the size of its main floor and adding a second floor. Through skillful planning and solid relationships with his suppliers and customers, A.J. was enabled to tough out the war years.
By the late 1940s, televisions were in high demand, but were quite expensive. Recognizing the demand for the product, A.J. decided to mount a TV in the window of the Ozone Park showroom so customers could watch boxing matches on Friday nights. Gigantic crowds gathered on the sidewalk to tune in, ultimately drawing attention to the business. By 1954, P.C. Richard & Son became completely committed to selling appliances, televisions, and radios. The business was flourishing and expanded further eastward into Long Island, which was a rapidly developing location and a prime spot to establish new showrooms.
By 1958, both of A.J.'s sons, Peter and Gary, who were regulars in the store since childhood, worked full time for the company. Peter and Gary also brought their children to work in the early 1970s, a meaningful tradition passed on from their father and grandfather that built strong work ethic. In 1974, A.J. stepped down as president, but always remained an entrepreneur at heart while continuously showing encouragement to his sons. Gary became president and CEO in 1980 and took the company through the next period of expansion. A.J. continued to attend all of P.C. Richard & Son's showroom openings into his nineties, showing his deep love for the company. Gregg, Gary's son, was named president of P.C. Richard & Son in 2004 and CEO in 2012. He carried his family's legacy on by developing the company's service center in Farmingdale, adding mattresses and growing the business while keeping to our tradition of Honesty, Integrity, and Reliability.
The tradition of Honesty, Integrity and Reliability was started 107 years ago by Pieter Christian Richard (1st generation), upheld by A.J. (2nd generation), Gary Richard (3rd generation), Gregg Richard (4th generation), and Scott Richard (5th generation). Today, P.C. Richard & Son has 66 showrooms, three distribution centers, two service centers, and four A.J. Richard Learning Centers. A.J. has developed P.C. Richard & Son into what it is today, all while teaching us that with hard work comes rewarding, endless possibilities. As he once said, “There are two joys of youth. There’s the joy of playing—baseball, street games, the beach with friends. The other joy, which to me is one of the greatest joys of life, is the feeling of accomplishment that comes with work well done. It’s a pleasure that can be far greater than playing.” These words of wisdom continue to inspire us throughout the years as we strive to reach more milestones and accomplishments in our future. A.J.'s values are forever engraved in our company's culture, and his legacy lives on.
Acknowledgements: The informative content of this blog is from our book Work Well Done: The 100-Year Story of P.C. Richard & Son by Jim H. Smith. If you'd like to learn more about our rich history, copies are available for purchase at any of our store locations!