Jay Tompt: Making hardware stores better

Jay Tompt admits he was a bit skeptical when personnel from Plan-It Hardware approached him about a position with their fledgling company.

“I was a little incredulous at first,” said Tompt, now the vice president at Plan-It. “I knew nothing about hardware, knew nothing about construction. I’m not even handy.”

A San Francisco-based hardware distributor, Plan-It Hardware was created by its parent company, California Hardware, with an environmentally friendly emphasis.

Tompt, who was previously employed with the sustainable plastics company Earthware Biodegradables, initially balked at the job offer, but after some deliberation into the matter, decided to join Plan-It Hardware in 2005.

“I did a little research and realized that, pound-for-pound, there are more hazardous chemicals in hardware stores than in any other store in retail,” said Tompt, who had worked as a marketing consultant in Silicon Valley before joining Earthware Biodegradables. “I thought about the political ideology in the country concerning climate change, I thought about the birth of my daughter [in 2000], and realized I could probably make a substantial difference by working in this company.”

Plan-It Hardware specializes in distributing chemical-free and non-toxic materials, including solvent-free caulks, organic garden supplies and zero level Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints. Along with an ecologically conscious product line, which numbers higher than 1,500 stock-keeping units, Plan-It Hardware also offers educational support for their distribution partners as part of their “Green It Yourself” environmental philosophy.

“The hardware store is a real community meeting point on ‘Main Street’,” Tompt said. “More people are aware of environmental issues, and more are eager to make the responsible choice. People are gaining interest in Plan-It on a grass-roots kind of level, just by seeing our product every day at their local hardware store.”

After launching at the November 2006 Green Festival in San Francisco, the company now has distribution deals with 37 different hardware stores throughout California.

While Tompt says the business has shown encouraging improvements, he believes there is plenty of potential for the future.

“The Bay Area is a great place for environmental advocacy, but the hardware industry is a little slow to change,” said Tompt, who lives in Russian Hill with his wife, Jane, and his daughter, Georgia. “We have clients all over the state, but only three in San Francisco. There is still a huge opportunity for growth in this city.”

Business

Last project: Toxic Awareness Campaign

Number of e-mails a day: 80+

Number of voice mails a day: 10

Essential Web site: www.environmentalleader.com  

Best perk: Green product samples

Gadgets: Solar-powered headlamp

Education: MBA, Monterey Institute of International Studies

Last conference: Greening Your Schools

First job: Gardeners assistant

Original aspiration: Cowboy

Personal

Details: Vegetarian; “Ironically, I’m not handy.”

Hometown: San Jose

Transportation: 1981 Mercedes 300D

Favorite restaurant: Za on Hyde

Vacation spot: Cornwall, England

Role Model: My friend John

Reading: “No Logo” by Naomi Klein

Worst fear: Apathy

Motivation: My daughter

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