BATH – You want to know one of the most dangerous places to visit in the State of Maine, Bath Industrial Sales in Bath. Over the years those of us who love tools have found this place an incredible place to go to, but boy can the wallet suffer a bit. For many years they operated out of a 6,600 square foot showroom, but after the completion of a new 45,000 square foot building it is an even better place to go!
Back almost 15 years ago I received a call from the U. S. Navy asking me to go and inspect something for them. I could not think of anything I was qualified to inspect, but since it came from the historical section I returned their call and discovered that someone wanted to donate parts of the Berlin Wall, which were being stored at Bath Industrial Sales. After seeing the piece of the Berlin Wall, I was given a tour of the facility, which was an impressive array of businesses, but especially the one dealing with tools.
Hal Hammond, who runs Bath Industrial Sales, said “We started in downtown Bath in front of Bath Iron Works at the Bath Pizza place right across from the post office in 1971, my father (Steve Hammond) started it. Our original company was Rent-All of Bath and in the original pictures and paperwork it showed the BIW crane and City Hall because it was Rent-All of Bath. In ’78 he moved out here and bought it from what was originally RVI, or Bill King and he expanded on the building that was there, added the showroom, which is now our old showroom of 6,600 square feet. We also had the steel fabrication shop which was 120 x 30-feet, almost as big as the showroom. We had a tool repair section which was another section of a few thousand square feet and a lot of back stock. Then other parts of the building we have added on to, 10,000 square feet on the backside in 2000. We still have steel fabrication, but we also sell aluminum and steel trailers, trailer parts and trailer repair, we install dump bodies and the new aluminum beds everybody is running around with.
“We also sell some power sports,” continued Hal. “We bought RVI, which is now RVI Motorsports, and brought it back here where it started. We sell used machines, a lot of accessories, lot of repairs and a lot of knowledge. The gentleman that works for us as a mechanic has been there since 1983 and loves it, just loves to help people out and fix things. That business has grown a little bit but we are still playing with that one and trying to make bigger.”
Several years ago, it was obvious that they needed to expand and build a new showroom. Hal said, “Our old store was like the original old hardware stores where you had to trip over stuff to get down the aisles. My father’s dream was to build this building and they figured out the numbers and we decided to do it. It took a few years because we paid for it as it was being built. The building is steel and heats well. Our worst month for over 45,000 square feet was $1,200 to heat it.”
The 45,000 square feet breaks down to a 21,000 square foot showroom, 21,000 square foot warehouse in the full basement and about 3,000 square feet of office space.
The old showroom was packed with all sorts of items, but what is shocking is that when they moved all these items to the new showroom it filled the 21,000 square feet of space. Now you can see all that they have it a well-lit area that is not overcrowded with things placed on top of other items. “When we decided to move, which was August 1st of 2019,” continued Hal, “we decided we had to move before winter because it is no fun to move in the rain and snow and we never closed a day. At points we had 30 pallets sitting on the floor and it was tough because we could not find everything and never as quick as people would like. We did the best we could and every day got a little better and we are very grateful to have all the help. It still is a work in progress and I feel it is still going on even though we have been here 10 months. We still have a way to go, but we are definitely heading in the right direction.”
Bath Industrial Sales carries all the popular lines, which include Bosch, Dewalt, Festool, Husqvarna, Irwin, Lennox, Makita, Milwaukee and more. “We have tools for homeowners, do-it-yourselfers, to contractors to industrial,” explained Hal. “Bath Iron Works is a great customer as well as all the other boat builders up and down the coast. We were a little slow with the pandemic for a few weeks but we have definitely bounced back.”
Even though they have an incredible line up of tools, they are always looking to add to their lines if they see it would benefit their customers.
Hal started with the company in 1997. “I had worked at a dozen different jobs,” said Hal. “I would figure out a job and get bored. I would also apply at places that weren’t necessarily hiring, but it looked like it would be an interesting place to work. I took over the business in ’97 when my father came down with cancer in ’96 and closed the business for a year. There was a little bit of inventory and a place to sell it, but no customers. I knew how to use tools, but I did not have a great knowledge so I took a bunch of adult education classes at the local high school. I had done some college, done accounting so I understood how business works and we just built it up from there. We had a particular bad year, or a sad year I should say, when we lost nine or ten older guys within a few months. I was kind of nervous because it was like are, we going to find some new people. I can’t lose them quicker than I can find them. Then we started advertising more and that worked out quite well. We started advertising on the radio. We went to the top-level radio stations in the state and that is where we have stayed and it has worked phenomenally well.”
You can always tell a good company by how long the employees have been there. Hal added, “My longest employee has been here for 18 years. We have a lot of employees in the 8-10-year range. We have people working here from the age of 19 all the way to people to 77.”
It is a constant challenge keeping up with all the new items in all the industries and Hal feels that he just needs to tweak what he carries when a products makes sense and compliment the lines that they already have. He added, “We feel there is a huge need to be able to see and touch the tool. The internet is great. I don’t go out of my way to buy anything on the internet I want to see it too, I want to know what I am getting. We really try to help the person figure out their problem and not just sell them a tool that they don’t need.”