The final four states on the alphabetical list showcase -- Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming -- showcase innovative, sophisticated and historic examples of hardware store all-stars.
McLendon Hardware. An active and aggressive user of retail technology systems, Renton, Wash.-based McLendon Hardware consists of six retail hardware stores — including a 117,000-sq.-ft. remodeled former Kmart store purchased in 2004 — a commercial lumberyard, two distribution centers and more than 500 employees. Founded in 1925, the fourth generation of the founder’s family is already in management positions.
• West Virginia
Martin & Jones. Martin & Jones is one of the stops on a historic walking tour of downtown Ronceverte, so tour guides usher groups through the late-1800s store on a regular basis. Meanwhile, employees fetch items for customers from tall wooden shelves using rolling ladders. The three-story building is full of merchandise, including furniture and outdoor power equipment. A much-sought-after small engine repairman runs a shop out back. Up until the 1950s, merchandise came by train right into the store’s basement. Founded in 1904, Martin & Jones is operated by the grandson of one of the original founders.
Nelson Agri-Center. This 2009 Golden Hammer Award “Innovative Retailer of the Year” winner is known for its engaging sidewalk and parking lot events. It operates stores in Prairie du Chien and Viroqua, which recently underwent a major remodel.
Shively Hardware. Lots of hardware stores look like they should be on the National Register of Historic Places, but Shively Hardware actually is. This wood frame structure was built in downtown Saratoga, Wyo., in 1889 and was made into a bank shortly after. The Shively family bought the business in 1925. (It was sold by previous owners to cover gambling debts.) “The store is built around the old bank vault,” said third-generation owner Mike Glode, a True Value dealer with a core assortment of hardware and major appliances. “We couldn’t take it out if we wanted to.” A second store, also called Shively Hardware, sells ATVs, snowmobiles and outdoor power equipment.
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