A brush with greatness

Owners of Whetstone Home Center are paint race victors – again.
Whetstone Amy, Mike, team
Mike and Amy Locke, in back center, owners of Whetstone Home Center, a United Hardware (Hardware Hank) dealer, and their paint dept. team, celebrate as two-time Valspar Paint Race winners.

They can go paint the town anytime they want.

At Whetstone, Mike, Amy and their team, competed in the Valspar Paint Race – and have won two years in a row.

Mike and Amy Locke are the owners of Whetstone Home Center, a United Hardware (Hardware Hank) dealer in Milbank, South Dakota, a lumber yard and hardware store that serves a 60-mile radius.

“My husband, Mike, and I purchased the business with co-owners Jeff and Stephanie Jurgens in the summer of 2016. At the time, it was a lumber yard with a very small hardware and paint department,” said Amy Locke.

They felt that adding a larger hardware and paint store would complement the lumber yard, and would allow customers and contractors to purchase hardware, paint and building supplies all from the same store.

She said that United Hardware has its distribution warehouse less than a mile from their store, and at the time there was not a Hardware Hank in Milbank.

“We decided that adding a Hardware Hank store to the lumber yard would be a great fit,” said Locke.

In late 2017 they started construction of a new building that included the hardware store, showroom for building supplies and offices. The new store opened in July 2017.

Paint Race

The Valspar Paint Race is a competition among all the United Hardware stores for the highest amount in paint sales each year. Whetstone got involved in the race when their new hardware store opened in 2017.

It felt rewarding for the owners and the business, said Locke, to win the Valspar Paint Race. And do it two years in a row. Valspar’s parent company is Sherwin-Williams.

“We are honored to receive the award two years in a row, and we feel that it is a reflection on the dedication and attention to detail of the staff in our paint department,” she said.

Whetstone paint race winner cake
Valspar surprised the team at Whetstone with a large cake to celebrate their back-to-back paint race wins.

Their team, said the co-owner, is committed to meeting customer needs and ensuring they are completely satisfied, “whether it be assisting them with picking out a paint color, getting just the right color match on an existing project, and everything in between.”

Winning the Paint Race drew interest from their customers.

“Our customers are excited about us winning the paint race two years in a row. They are amazed that such a large amount of paint is sold in a small town like Milbank,” said Locke.

The top Valspar colors they sell are Silver Bonnet, Sculpting Clay, Rocky Shelter, Silver Thistle Down, and Santa’s Beard, she added.

They had some close calls in past Paint Races, Locke said, “like in 2019, after striving very hard to get near the top of the paint race, we came in third place, and only missed getting second place by two gallons of paint.”

Along with paint, the owners are seeing other areas growth in their business.

“Home construction and remodeling in our area has been showing growth in the last several years, and in turn, this has been allowing the lumber and building materials portion of the business to grow,” said the co-owner.

Locke passed along a tip to others thinking of growing their paint department: “Find employees who truly enjoy working with paint and are passionate about it. This is reflected in their ability to assist customers in getting exactly what they need for their paint project.”

The paint race was a winning experience for this South Dakota hardware business. “We are grateful for all our loyal customers who have made winning this award possible,” said Locke.

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