MORAGA -- Bill Snider is the Moraga Chamber of Commerce's 2013 Business Person of the Year. The owner of Moraga Hardware and Lumber and the lifestyle store, named "Across the Way," Snider is a father of two; co-founder of the local shopping initiative "Shop Moraga First;" a proponent of the town's recently passed Measure K raising money for local roads and other needs. He's also a community volunteer for schools and for Scouts.
And Snider is stumped.
"My mind's a blank," he says, looking stunned. "I can't think of a single joke to tell."
Despite the fact that his resumé reads "always ready with a joke," and his reputation for humor runs wild enough to be reflected in the Chamber's hokey-jokey "whereas" proclamation-style announcement of his award, he can't drum up a one-liner.
But he does have much to say about running a business, and that goes a long way to explaining not only why he won the award, but who Bill Snider is.
"My hardware store, that's not the business. Our business is customer service," he says.
If it weren't for the fact that his store, opened in 2000, has miraculously survived the competitive onslaught of an Orchard Supply Hardware store within 200 yards and an economic slide that claimed 80 percent of his contractor business, his "customer service" line would be a "line."
Instead, it's the deep, ethical furrow he plows to grow a business capable of overcoming the "perception that bigger, brighter, wider, equates to better." His down-in-the-trenches approach applies to everything, from hammers to hiring.
"Value pricing, employees who know where everything is so you get in and out in a flash, marketing on Facebook and Constant Contact, community outreach," he says, rattling off a list of core tenets. "Just me, getting outside of the building to sell the company, that's been big."
Outside the confines of his nine-department, 6,000-square-foot store, Snider rides a Harley, hikes, kayaks and cheers for his beloved San Jose Sharks and Saint Mary's College Gaels.
With one child a senior in college and another due to graduate from Campolindo High School this year, Snider says the only thing he'd want to do -- if he couldn't run a hardware store -- is be a self-employed cattle rancher in Colorado.
"I'm from a little town in Iowa, but I've lived in California since 1990. I say Colorado because that's where the Midwest meets the west," he says.
It's just a cowboy daydreaming though, because Snider has Moraga in his DNA. What else would have caused him to personally construct 400 lawn signs to promote passage of Measure K, the local sales tax aimed at road repair and infrastructure? And what else would cause him to brush away a surprisingly political "whereas" as "irrelevant" and even find it funny?
"WHEREAS, despite being a registered Republican, Bill was an early endorser and supporter of Measure K ... " the Chamber's proclamation reads.
"When our roads are falling apart and I've researched and believe in the integrity of the people reporting, if I can make this community a place I can be proud of, then I'll do that, regardless of party affiliation," he states. "I don't find it ironic, but it's interesting."
Chamber President Frank Melon, writes in an email that Snider is "definitely one-of-a-kind" and "a very generous and passionate person."
The letter of nomination, submitted for a board-members-only vote, praises his patience and clarity before adding: "And like a good hardware store owner, he even tells jokes that are funny. Sometimes."
But on this day, he's still not coming up with a punchy joke and so the talk turns to his favorite subject: assets.
"My most valuable assets are my employees and my customers. They're equal. I do all the hiring. I hire people from my gut. They fit into the culture of my store," he insists. "We're entrepreneurial, so we try new things. I ask the customers what they want."
And when he's not asking, he's telling.
"Moraga First has been successful, but not as successful as I think it can be. It's a constant thing, to thank the local people for shopping local and to educate," he says.
Then, like any good salesman, Snider wraps it up with a freshly baited hook and a promise: "Come back tomorrow," he calls, "I'll have that joke you were looking for."
Snider will be publicly honored at a sold-out chamber-sponsored Feb. 26 dinner at the Moraga Country Club.