One couple takes on an abandoned building and restarts a life – and a town – in hardware.
The story of Shane and Sarah Coltrain opening their store is the story of hardware itself – helping a community.
Sarah: “Hey babe; I’m gonna leave my hairdresser job.”
Shane: “And do what?”
Sarah: “Our town needs a hardware store.”
Shane: “Okay.” <Pause.> “Let’s open one.”
And that was how it began…. the journey to open a hardware store in their town of Ayden, North Carolina.
That ‘aha’ moment everyone always talks about, came to this couple when Sarah said to Shane during COVID, “we need to do something different.”
So, Shane and Sarah Coltrain came up with a business plan. And it’s this: “To serve our town.”
Ayden is a small town of about 5,000 people in the eastern part of the state, about halfway between Raleigh and the Atlantic Ocean, in an area known as the Inner Banks.
In the next 10 years, the couple said, the town is anticipated to double in size.
They have been remodeling an old building, preparing for their store.
“There will be a lot of people building new homes and improving their current houses. By purchasing an old building, we’re able to help revitalize the downtown area and look forward to helping the town grow.”
Coltrain Hardware takes shape. The excitement in the town can be felt.
The owners plan to open the doors in November. “We’ll just open organically,” said Sarah Coltrain.
With words of hope and wisdom from local citizens and vendors, the owners have heard, “how much a hardware is needed in this town.”
Along with: “You’ll be busy.”
The Coltrain’s said that with the close of the only hardware store in their town, and the closest store being more than 10 miles away, they knew there was a huge need for a local supplier.
After researching hardware, they were able to visit the Do It Best market in Indianapolis last year. It was there they made the decision to utilize a co-op membership to open a hardware store in Ayden.
A year later, their doors are set to open.
Surprises along the way
“The biggest surprise we’ve seen is the local support,” the owners said. “We knew a hardware store was needed but to hear people talk about it is a pleasant surprise.”
They said there is, “a nostalgia of having a local hardware store in a small town,” and the thought of having a store again brings such joy to people. “We’re very thankful to be able to provide such a service to our neighbors.”
The new owners mentioned just one supply challenge, but not what you might expect. “The only supply issue that made it a challenge was ordering new fixtures for the store,” said Sarah.
“We placed the order a year ago, not knowing what building we were going to put them in. Luckily for us, after purchasing the old downtown building, the order fit right in with our construction timeline.”
The old warehouse in the town of Ayden was made over and months of preparation will culminate in the couple launching their new hardware.
A solutions place
Launching the new hardware business meant division of labor between this husband-and-wife team.
“While my husband and I are opening the store together, I will be the one running the day-to-day operations,” said Sarah.
“My grandfather was a second-generation general store owner. They said his store had everything from plow points to coffins,” she said. “While I won’t have coffins for sale, I hope to carry on the legacy of serving the community through home and hardware supplies.”
Sarah has a tip for anyone thinking of starting a new hardware business. She passed on some wisdom she got from an experienced hardware store owner.
“He told us: ‘We are not in sales; we are in the solutions business.’ Finding a solution for projects is our job, and what a joy it is to be able to help others.”
Sarah said, “A life in the hardware store business is all about finding solutions – helping others. If you’re considering opening a hardware store, it will be a lot of work, but it will be well worth it.”
As an added note: Shane and Sarah decided to add something extra, last minute, to their store offerings: “A visitor’s center full of local merch.”
As Sarah put it: “We saw that we needed to also be the town’s souvenir shop where we’ll sell T-shirts, along with jams, jellies, and other items to support and promote the local community.”
That fits perfectly with the couple who set out to serve their town.