Less than two months ago, Bob Crittendon didn't really know he would be retiring by the end of the year. His business, Builder Bob’s Home Improvement Center, started in 1989 and has been a home improvement destination in Ardmore for more than 20 years, and he knew his time in the business was nearing the end.
“In retail, you have to have a pretty good supply of happy faces, because there’s just a lot of challenges in it that can take those away,” he said.
He said he has been running low on happy faces, but his happy face on Saturday was genuine as the final hours before retirement ticked away. Dozens of people filtered in and out of the store, some to offer Crittendon well wishes and others to ask about doors, cabinets, flooring, and general home improvement. Among them was Darinda Caudle, who started working at Builder Bob’s about 15 years ago.
“Everybody knew my voice on the phone,” she said as she talked about her 11 years of part-time work. She said her son also worked a few summers at Builder Bob’s, and her husband made a 20-year career at the store. For Caudle, Builder Bob’s has been a part of the family. “Bob has been an awesome person, awesome boss, and awesome friend,” she said.
Builder Bob’s will reopen on Jan. 2, 2020 as the second location of The Boss Builders Outlet Super Store, a flooring and home improvement store based in Dallas. Crittendon said he is friends with The Boss founder Richard Bell and had informally talked with him about retirement in the past. It wasn’t until this fall that discussions started to turn into an exit strategy for Crittendon. While he said it felt natural to start and run a business, stepping away from the business was not as easy.
“I really had a sense of concern that I was a person who knew how to land a business,” he said. He worked through the process with faith and some help from his office manager, and started towards his own retirement about six weeks ago. The longtime business owner said planning the details, however, has been out of his hands. “I didn’t plan it, I didn’t have to plan it. God provided the right combination,” he said.
While he expects to travel more in retirement, Crittendon said he will remain in Ardmore and might even be found in the store from time to time. He might also skip town to see the Iditarod. “If I walk out at 2 (o’clock), no one is going to fire me because I’m not on payroll,” he said. Ultimately, Crittendon wants to focus his retirement on family, friends, and travel. “I plan on that being the theme of my life for a while,” he said.
As for the business, he seemed confident in the store’s new ownership and sees the transfer as the continuation of a legacy. “I truly want to drive past here when I’m 84 with one of my grandchildren and say ‘here is an independent flooring store that’s been in existence for 50 years’,” he said.