Back to the Future Day – 2015 – This is Heavy

I woke up today on October 21st, 2015 thinking about the future. Or the past. Or the present… I’m so confused.




By the way… check out the Pepsi Sign! Marty McFly drank Pepsi in 1955

We probably all know that today is the day that Marty McFly arrived in the future from 1985. In the first movie he drove his DeLorean 88 miles per hour to the year 1955. It struck me the other night as we were watching the movie with my children, that 1955 was the year that Howard Brothers opened its doors.

Back in 1955, Ed Howard took over a gas station and general store from his soon to be father-in-law. I can only imagine that the city of Norcross was similar in parts to What Hill Valley looked like. While I don’t think Norcross had a “town green” with the iconic clock tower, it had to be a neat area that centered around the railroad tracks and the train depot. Downtown Norcross was a hub of many small businesses similar to those seen in the movie. The gas station and general store that Ed Howard owned was a stop “on the way” towards Atlanta. I’ve heard many conversations from folks who would stop there on their way to working at the old General Motors plant in Doraville. They’d stop on the way south, and back on their way north. Some of the first neighborhoods in Gwinnett county were established around that Doraville location which saw the need for the store to transform to include more groceries and meat.

In 1972, Ed decided to get into the hardware business more and joined national True Value Hardware. He opened up a store next to the grocery that was small but had your basics. I wonder if he had any idea at the time of what his business would look like years later.


Roads? Where we went in 1985... it was almost just roads.

Roads? Where we went in 1985… it was almost just roads.

Fast forward to 1985 (Marty’s present day), when Ed’s sons, John and Doug Howard, are more involved in the business. They began looking north on Buford Highway to the city of Duluth as a potential location for a second store. They saw growth that was happening and were able to look into the future and see the need for another Hardware store similar to the one in Doraville. In 1987, Howard Brothers opened its second store about 7 miles from its original. At this time, Doug was already seeing the future of power equipment and made strategic decisions which would make Howard Brothers the area expert for small engines, mowers, and other types of power equipment.


But where are the hoverboards, flying cars, and other technology which Marty McFly encountered in the year 2015?

Let’s face it, Howard Brothers isn’t in the drone and cold fusion business. In the hardware stores, we still sell bolts and nuts, window glass, and hammers. Over in the equipment business, we still repair engines because of gasoline failures and people still use string trimmers to clean up in their yards. From the outside looking in, not a whole lot has changed in 30-50 years. Or has it?

  1. stihl-cordless-kombisystem-gear-patrol-leadLook at power. It used to be that everything with a large engine had to be powered by gasoline and oil, but we continue to see commercial landscapers move to propane powered equipment. More and more homeowners (even some commercial landscapers) are going to battery powered equipment. This saves fuel costs and helps protect the environment. In Back to the Future 2, we see signs of a world which had its pollution problems, but was also trying to create ways to clean up the streets.
  2. Look at lighting. Lighting has changed so much in the past 5 years. Everyday, it seems like the latest/greatest bulb is produced which will both save energy and cost less to operate. We’ve seen incandescents almost totally eliminated by compact fluorescents and LEDs.
  3. Smart products are everywhere. I really can’t believe that someone hasn’t invented a wifi enabled hammer (I actually had to google that to make sure someone hasn’t.) Seriously, we have cordless drills which you can connect to the internet through wifi so that manufacturers can observe how they’re being used… How crazy is that!? Some Milwaukee Power Tools are able to be upgraded so that they run more efficiently and have fewer problems. Lawn mowers are becoming the same way. It is a normal day at Howard Brothers when I see one of our technicians plug a laptop into an engine on a mower (just like they do at auto dealers) to diagnose what is going on in the engine! That’s cool!
  4. Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 9.04.55 AMNylon grade. Bear with me on this, but this is really cool too. When I first started working in the hardware store, I was introduced to the many types of fasteners. I had to learn the difference between grade 2, grade 5, grade 8, stainless steel, and all the other types of materials which formed the over 5000 types of fasteners that we carry. You’ve probably heard of 3D printing and how one day, you’ll be able to print your own toilet flapper when your old one goes bad… but I get a little excited when I think of fasteners which will probably one day be nylon but have the same strength as a grade 8 bolt. We already see trends heading more towards this. It is going to happen…
  5. Chemicals. Here’s one that has a lot of unknowns, but also one that we all know is going to greatly change in the next few years. With folks becoming more environmentally friendly, they are more and more concerned with the chemicals we use on our lawn, food, and around the home. History has shown misuse and poor use of caustic chemicals which are more harmful than we thought. In some ways, the future is looking more like the past where we used natural/safer alternatives to pesticides and toxins. Since many of these products are staple items for hardware stores across this country…this will be an interesting discussion to listen in on over the next few years. It will likely transform the hardware store in ways we haven’t seen before.
  6. Wearables/portable tech – Who doesn’t have a smart phone? We’ve been seeing some amazing new products that are going to make you say, “Great Scott.” Recently at the True Value Fall Market in Chicago, we were stunned by a little camera by seek thermal. It is a thermal imaging camera that attaches to your smart phone and allows you to see heat variations. Home inspectors, electricians, plumbers and maintenance guys will love this thing… Coming soon to our stores, but think about how much our devices allow a world of new tech to become more cost effective and possible. Our smart phones are more part of our toolbox than anything.

I guess after today, all of the events of the Back to the Future movies will be in the past. As we look to the future of Metro Atlanta and North Georgia, I wonder what we’ll experience. How do you think our our lives be changed by the technology and innovation of today and tomorrow?

Want to learn more about Howard Brother’s History, check out this video from John and Doug Howard.

Blood Drive at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre This Friday

As a small business, our greatest asset is our people. Even though we really are family owned and independently run…everyone from our cashiers, to sales associates, to administrative staff is family. Many of us have worked together for 5, 10, 20+ years. We get to see children born from co-workers, and then we get to see those children get married and have children of their own. We get to celebrate great times, but we also get to ache when times might not be so great.

Right now, we’re aching for one of our own.

Many of you know Kim Honan. He worked in our hardware division in Duluth for several years before moving to Alpharetta and helping that store open the doors in 2013. He loves helping customers and is genuinely one of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Kim and his wife were involved in a car crash a few weeks ago, and he has been in the hospital ever since. If you would, say some prayers for the Honan family.

In times like these, you wonder what you can do and how you can help. While it may not specifically help Kim at this point, one thing which accidents like this always brings need for is blood. This Friday, there is a blood drive happening at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. Here are the details:

Location: Backstage at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.
Park in the Delta VIP Lot and enter through the Carl Black Club.

After donating blood, please join us ON STAGE for food and drink. Selfies are encouraged. Show off that you donated blood AND stood where many rockers have sung your favorite songs! You will also receive a commemorative 2015 concert poster, while supplies last.

Eligible donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment to give blood by
• using the Blood Donor App
• calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)
• visiting – Please enter in zip code 30009


Blood donors of all types, especially those with types AB, O negative, A negative and B negative, are needed to ensure blood is available whenever and wherever needed.

Blood and platelet donors can feel confident that by donating blood through the American Red Cross that they are helping to ensure that blood products are available for patients in about 100 hospitals in the Southern Blood Services Region, as well as hospital patients throughout the country.

For those who are unable to donate blood, visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

The Blood Donor App is free and available for download on iPhone and Android devices through the App Store and Google Play or by texting BLOODAPP to 90999 for a link to download it.

Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood.