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Bible Hill man realizes lifelong ambition of owning a business


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Arnold Hagen, the new owner of Harris Home Hardware Building Centre, says customers will notice little change in operations as a result of the ownership switch. HARRY SULLIVAN - TRURO DAILY NEWS

BIBLE HILL - Finally, he's living the dream.

Years ago, as a student at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Arnold Hagen decided he would one day like to have his own business.

And then he got into banking and over the next 22 years, immersed himself into a career of "selling money."

On Jan. 1, Hagen took control as the new owner of Harris Home Hardware Building Centre on Pictou Road.

While, on the one hand, his environment has changed completely. On the other, he is amazed at the similarities between the banking and retail industries.

"Retail, I don't know if it is a whole lot different than what I was doing before," said Hagen, who spent his entire banking career with Scotiabank.

"It's all service, is the main part of it," he said. "Whether you are selling money or two by fours it's all about selling top-quality service."

After growing up as a "farm boy" on Prince Edward Island, Hagen came to Bible Hill during the 1980s to study animal science at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.

He decided to switch studies, however, and ended up graduating with an Economics Degree. From there, he was hired by the Scotiabank in Saint John, N.B., and eventually spent the next two decades moving up through the banking business at various locations in New Brunswick, Halifax and P.E.I. before transferring to Truro about five years ago as a commercial banker.

Hagen always enjoyed his banking career but despite his successes, his mind always strayed back to the concept of running his own business.

Over the past few years, he became acquainted with Doug Harris, son of Ron Harris, who founded Harris Home Hardware in 1974, and eventually they settled on a deal that saw Hagen buying out the business.

Although Hagen said he left his former job still enjoying it as much as he ever did, when the opportunity for owning a trade-marked business and community icon finally presented itself, it was too much to turn down.

"I probably, ever since I left the AC, wanted to own my own business, I guess. So, it's not as if I crawled out of bed one morning and thought I was gonna' come here and buy Doug and Paul out," he said.

"I was looking to realize, I guess, a lifelong ambition. That's what it boils down to. It's no more complicated than that, really. I know it sounds kind of wonky because, like you said, you're leaving the bank – I couldn't imagine a better employer – so it wasn't like I left somewhere where I wasn't happy.

"But it wasn't really just about owning a business," either, Hagan said. "I was pretty hooked on this type of industry."

While some aspects of his new job – such as customer service – may be similar, Hagen said he certainly does have adjustments to make.

Whereas in the banking world his client meetings would be set up a week in advance, now salesman come knocking on his door unannounced at any given time. And then there are the many other multiple facets of his new business to deal with.

"I think you kind of go with the flow," he said. "I find it a very exciting environment. You don't have a clue what opportunities are going to pop up during the day.

"And whether you are involved in bidding a job or trying to find a way to make a deal happen ... you get the same adrenaline rush if want to call it that ... (of closing the deal). It's really no different, it's a sale, so you get that rush from making the sale happen."

Customers won't notice too much change as a result of the new ownership and given that Hagen is "ecstatic" over the quality of staff he has inherited (32 employees including himself), no one has to worry about losing their jobs, either.

As far as the day-to-day running of the retail supply operation goes, all three members of the Harris family have agreed to remain on staff for at least a year.

"So you can sit here with some confidence that what is being done out there hasn't changed. I'm not coming in and turning things upside down. I'm just here to kind of oversee ... and get an appreciation for how everything works and then find my role within that," Hagan said.

"For me it's been one good smooth transition ...  The best part of my day is the interacting with staff and customers. And that's no different than banking, I guess."

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