J.B. Thomas & Son Hardware is Iva’s go-to for information, conversation
There’s a lot more than hand tools and hinges at J.B. Thomas & Son Hardware in Iva.
A local go-to and gathering spot for more than 70 years, the mom-and-pop retailer has outlasted area chain stores and survived a 2007 fire that destroyed the original store built in 1896.
With monetary donations and sweat equity from members of the Iva community, J.B. Thomas & Son reopened in 2008 to continue to provide the rural Anderson County town with everything from electrical and plumbing supplies to fertilizer, fencing and well pumps.
“Daddy always said, ‘If we don’t have it, you don’t need it,’” said Randy Thomas, the oldest son of company founder Walter Thomas.
Adds his brother, Mike, “If we don’t have exactly what you come in for, we’ll make it work. We’ll build it or put it together for you. If you’re in a tight spot, we’ll get you going. It may not be pretty, but it will get you going.”
It’s that personal touch that the Thomas brothers believe has helped their family-owned business survive since 1949, especially in today’s environment of big box and online retailers.
“I like to think we’re a little bit different. We give that personal touch you won’t get anywhere else,” Mike says. “We’ll sit and try to help you figure out something, or help you find a plumber or electrician or somebody to do some grading for you locally that you can trust. We just try to go above and beyond what you’d get in a big box store or even online.”
As second-generation operators, Randy and Mike Thomas carry on the business model started by their parents, Walter and Helen.
“When you think about how things are changing and moving forward, we haven’t changed a whole bunch,” Mike said. “We still do things with pencil and paper. We do have a cash register, but we do things old-school wise.”
Mr. Thomas died in 2013, but Mrs. Thomas still comes to work six days a week to make sure things run smoothly.
“People like to come in and joke with her and cut up with her, and she gives it back just as much as they give it to her,” Mike says. “And she still puts that foot down if you’re not moving fast enough.”
As the store’s resident gardener, Mrs. Thomas has helped countless customers during the resurgence of planting and gardening over the past year during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve sold more vegetable seeds and plants in the past year than we have since the 70s,” Randy said. “Young kids that thought they’d never be able to survive, well, they’re learning. They’re planting gardens, they learned to can. You can’t even buy jars.”
Mike believes the past year has made many people long for a simpler way of life that places like Iva have to offer.
“People want to get out of the big cities and the congestion,” he said. “Here you’ll find more of a homey, front-porch-sitting feel where people can do hobby farming, maybe bigger.”
For those ready to experience life in a smaller town, J.B. Thomas & Son is the go-to for information and conversation. Inspired by the old wood burning heater that was the centerpiece for communication in the old store, today’s customers can pull up a chair or a rocker while exchanging information.
“It’s the gathering spot of high information for people to learn from,” Mike says with a chuckle. “This place will keep you humble, and we’ve got the world’s best customers.”
Want to visit?
J.B. Thomas & Son Hardware, 505 E. Front Street, Iva, SC 29655, (864) 348-6171 or follow J.B. Thomas & Son Hardware on Facebook.