Founded in 1980 as a small country store, Plow & Hearth® has grown into a leading retailer of products for home, hearth, yard and garden. Successfully marketing these products through all three major channels – catalog, internet and retail stores – Plow & Hearth has evolved over the past 30 years into a multi-million dollar retailer whose products cover indoor and outdoor rooms, gardens, pets, personal comfort and care, safety and emergencies, weather instruments, storage solutions and gifts.
During the past 30 years, we have remained dedicated to the same principles that have guided us from the beginning, and to which we attribute our success: honesty, integrity and most importantly, our commitment to customer service.
The Early YearsIn 1980, the husband-and-wife team of Peter and Peggy Rice, together with Michael Burns, founded Plow & Hearth as a small retail store amid the lush, rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Madison, Virginia. In an era when interest in alternative energy, family and self-reliant lifestyles was growing, Plow & Hearth opened its first “Essentials for Country Living” store. The building was solar powered and heated by a wood stove, and sold chainsaws, rototillers, wood stoves, country kitchen items, food preparation and preservation equipment, bird watching items, bulk seeds, lawn and garden tools and how-to books.
Our Catalog Headquarters, 1980.
Encouraged by the community’s enthusiastic reception, the following year Plow & Hearth produced its first catalog, mailing 100,000 copies nationwide. Typical of a family-run start-up, Peggy Rice and her sister, Marty, filled the catalog orders from the old granary on the Rice’s farm. The catalog successfully expanded operations beyond the Shenandoah Valley, and Plow & Hearth was profitable at the close of its first complete financial year. Within another year, catalog sales grew beyond the granary’s capacity, and were moved to the back of the retail store.
By 1983, the expanding catalog mail order business was again outgrowing its space and was moved to a more suitable location: the old Farmers’ Cooperative building in downtown Madison. That same year, in order to maintain the company’s strong commitment to exceptional customer service, operations were computerized. And in 1984, a second retail store was opened in nearby Ivy, Virginia.
The Growth YearsFrom 1986 to 1990, the company experienced extraordinary growth. In 1986, Inc. magazine selected Plow & Hearth for its Inc. 500 Award, given to America’s fastest growing private companies. We made the Inc. 500 list for four consecutive years, with five-year growth rates as high as 1,217%!
Rapid expansion forced catalog operations to move yet again, this time to a renovated textile mill, known as the “Silk Mill” in neighboring Orange County in 1989.