Cornwell Tools dealer stays active with the business in retirement

Al Palmer will miss his customers and his friends in the tool business now that he has retired after more than 22 years on the truck. But the 66-year-old Cornwell Tools dealer in Santee, Calif., who began his career 46 years ago as a technician, won’t be saying goodbye for good.

He plans to ride with the dealers who will be taking over his stops and introduce them to his customers. While he no longer will be selling his customers their tools, he thinks a personal introduction to their new dealer will make them feel confident they will still be taken care of.

He will also be attending next year’s Cornwell Tools Rally at Disney World’s Coronado Hotel in Orlando, Fla. to see his friends at Cornwell and the tool and equipment manufacturers he has gotten to know over the years. He attended the recent Tool Rally in Las Vegas where he promised many of his colleagues he will be sure to attend the 2015 Tool Rally.

“I made a lot of friends throughout the years. I love it and I’ve had a great time,” Palmer says. “I still go out and see my customers.”

In his spare time, he will do more camping and fishing.

The tool business has become more challenging over the years as tools have become more complex. But Palmer thinks mobile tool dealers today have plenty of opportunity to do well if they educate themselves about the tools and provide good customer service.

“It’s a good business,” he says. “You just have to take care of your customers and they take care of you. Be consistent with your customer. Do what you say you’ll do and always go to all your stops.”

Back in 1970, Palmer recalls selling a set of 1/2” sockets for $27.83. Today, that same socket set sells for more than $280.

The biggest changes have been in electronic tools. “If you don’t stay up on the latest diagnostics, you’re going to lose a lot of sales,” he says.

Looking back, he’s glad he made the switch from working as a technician and an automotive service manager to becoming a Cornwell Tools dealer.