Both Don Osteen, owner of Ace Hardware stores in Dallas and Seven Hills, and Jennifer Bruner, owner of True Value Hardware in Dallas, agreed the key to their success is customer service.
“We [Ace stores] don’t just sell products, we sell customer service,” Osteen said.
Even with a down economy there are still more individually owned hardware stores in America than corporate stores, according to the North American Retail Hardware Association.
Specializing in certain items is a big draw for the independent stores.
Osteen has owned both stores for two years and moved to Paulding July 1. His son Doug Osteen is general manager and has run the stores for the past two years. Osteen has spent 30 years working in the lumber business and is the third generation in his family to work in the industry.
That is why he started selling lumber about two months ago at his Ace store on East Paulding Drive.
“Lumber is going to be the best thing we have done with this store,” Doug said. “We sell lumber every day now.”
What sets their store apart from big-box stores is they will deliver the wood for free, he said. Selling lumber gives contractors and residents a one-stop shop. About 50 percent of the time their price is cheaper than big-box stores and it is better quality, Osteen said.
A big seller that can only be purchased at independent stores is the Big Green Egg, a brand of charcoal-fired barbecue grill.
Osteen’s daughter, Ashley Osteen, is the assistant manager. She said the warranty on the product is great and led to finding a replacement part for a customer’s 15-year-old Big Green Egg for free.
Mrs. Bruner and her husband, Mike Bruner, have owned the True Value store on Merchants Drive for about four years. Their store is known for its aisle full of different types and sizes of nuts, screws and bolts, she said.
Bruner said the store has about $30,000 worth of the metal items. They said a number of their customers get the products for their automobiles. They even feature chrome pieces.
“It is trying to have what a customer needs and wants,” Mrs. Bruner said.
The store also has a variety of pipes and tools for plumbing.
“If we don’t have it we can get it,” she said.