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Retailer Profile: Nothers The Award Store

Some people are introduced to the personalization industry through family or friends.

Retailer Profile: Nothers The Award Store

Inspiring customers on their journeys isn’t just a job at Nothers The Award Store

By Brian Stanley

Some people are introduced to the personalization industry through family or friends.

   Don Elliott, Wanda Wallace, Lori Wilson, and Jim Nother

For the Nothers, it was man’s best friend, and that dog led to a family business that has operated in southwestern Ontario for more than 50 years.

“My dad was buying a dog, and the guy who was selling it asked him if he wanted to get into the trophy business,” said Jim Nother, president of Nothers The Award Store.

The dog’s name was Columbus. The year was 1968, and James Nother Sr. decided to take a chance and make trophies in the basement of his London, Ontario, home.

“My father was one of 16 children and came over from Ireland in 1955. My great-grandfather was an entrepreneur, and my dad had learned the principles of business from him,” Nother said.

James Nother Sr. was working at a cereal factory when he started the home business supplying local schools and sports teams. But within 10 years, he had expanded Nothers Trophies into a full-time business with its own location. Around the same time, Nother, his son, went from helping out with engraving after school to supervising orders and operations.

“I did everything, and I enjoyed doing everything for this business,” Nother said. “I really didn’t see myself doing anything else.”

James Nother Sr. eventually moved into the auto finishing business and, in 1987, he sold Nothers Trophies to two of his sons, Jim and Paul.

The Nother brothers operated the store together for 10 years until they had different ideas about where the company’s future lay.

“There were two paths. My brother wanted to move the business into wholesale operations and focus on screen printing. I wanted to stay retail. You can do more with the customers, you have more control with the customers,” Nother said.

“Wholesale is more dependent on what you offer. For retail, it’s the customers you work with. I like to find out their whole story to provide the best solution for their needs.”

Nother took over the entire operation in 1997, allowing him to keep it as a customer-centric retail operation. The company changed its name to Nothers The Award Store in 2019 when it bought a retail store in Toronto called The Award Store.

THE PANDEMIC’S EFFECT

Nothers The Award Store provides crystal and acrylic awards, plaques, custom medals, lanyards, lapel pins, name badges, years of service programs, banners, promotional products, clothing, and signage. Key clients include Swim Ontario, Ontario Volleyball, Western University, Ontario Soccer, Skate Ontario, Canadian Lacrosse Association, OWHA, Basketball Ontario, Pet Valu, BDC, and College Pro.

   Nothers keeping track of medals at the Olympics

Before the pandemic, about 60% of Nothers’s customer base was athletic and sports organizations. Corporations, nonprofits, and schools made up about 30% of the store’s business, plus 10% for the showroom.

COVID-19 flipped that. Now, corporate awards make up about 70% of their business, and sports have dropped to about 25% and 5% for the showroom.

“We certainly hope sports will come back, but this is a big change,” Nother said. “Most people are in the same boat. They’re looking for more value for their dollar. Clubs are still interested in making sure there’s a memento at the end of a season.”

Nothers The Award Store utilizes engraving equipment, lasers, a UV printer, sandblasting, banner making equipment, and doming epoxy finishes.

Nother likens the technology he’s used over the years to that of a mechanic. “In the 1980s, it was just a toolbox; there was no diagnostic computer. (We) used to engrave and set the type. Now what you see on the screen is exactly what you get,” Nother said.

A FOCUS ON CUSTOMER SERVICE

Nother is committed to focusing on his store’s customers, and it shows. Nothers has received the prestigious Consumer Coice Award for Business Excellence in the Promotion category for both London and Toronto for the past 8 years.

Nothers The Award Store has 18 employees who Nother considers team members, and they share in 10% of the store’s profits.

   Cindy Leon (33 years of service)

“I just sign the checks; our customers pay everyone,” he said.

Nothers occupies a 15,000-sq.-ft building on 2 acres, and Nother has considered adding a satellite location to expand into a larger region.

   Emma Phillips (27 years of service) and Matt Ramsay (12 years of service)

Nother’s four children—Greg, Lindsay, Mary, and Marc—have all worked for the business at one time or another. None are champing at the bit to be the next generation helming the store, and that’s just fine with their proud father.

“I think I passed on my work ethic and desire to do things well, because they’ve all gone on to do other things and they’ve had success in those fields,”

   Jim Nother receiving the Don Morgan Award (Business of the Year)

Nother said. “I do have 10 grandkids and maybe one of them will want to join me. I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here at least 50 hours a week because I still don’t see this as a job.” Nother said the best part of being in the recognition industry is having the opportunity to experience the best times of people’s lives.

“My calling as a Christian man is to encourage people,” he said. “So I feel blessed to be in a business that does just that. I love hearing people’s stories. I’ve been blessed with the gift of encouragement. For our work to inspire someone to go run that marathon, to go to the Olympics. I love seeing those journeys, and I love being a part of it.”

Awards and Personalization Association

The Awards and Personalization Association is the organization for retailers and suppliers of personalized and customized items. By providing education, meetings, and access to a vibrant network of professionals, the Awards and Personalization Association is the one place to ensure the growth of your talent, your business, and your professional community.

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