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Harbor Freight - The history

Eric Smidt and his father, Allan Smidt established Harbor Freight Salvage in a small building in North Hollywood, California in 1977. The company started as a mail-order tool business, which dealt with, returned and liquidated merchandise, and later changed its name to Harbor Freight Tools. In the year 1985, Eric Smidt was named the president of the company at the age of 25; he served under that title until he became CEO in 1999. Harbor Freight was headquartered in nearby Camarillo, California from the mid 1980s-2010.

Harbor Freight acquired another mail-order tool and equipment company known as US General. At first, the company mailed promotions in standard 10 business envelopes. In the early 1980s, the company relocated to Camarillo, CA, procuring the former headquarters of Unity, which is another large mail-order company, and launched its first mail-order catalog in the mid-1980s.

Harbor Freight established its first retail store in Lexington, Kentucky in 1980 to sell returned merchandise from its mail-order business. Harbor Freight started opening stores across the United States due to the success the venture recorded. Harbor Freight operates over 800 retail stores in 47 states as of 2017.