By KYMBERLI HAGELBERG
Inside the new Hartville Hardware store is a 1800s-era cabin that was once the home to the area’s first Amish bishop. There’s also a 37,000 square-foot, three-lane drive through lumberyard, a full-service repair shop, 100,000 items including tools, hardware, electrical, clothing, paint, home decor, flooring, appliances, plumbing, garden and outdoor needs, a feed store and a gym – all beneath skylight’s fitted with photocells smart enough to determine how much power is needed to illuminate the nearly seven-acre home decor and builder’s supply store.
The third incarnation of the locally owned home center store opened April 12 as a mega-mix of small-town charm and big box amenities.
Gary Sommers, whose grandfather and two uncles started Hartville Hardware in 1972, handled the first leg of a tour of the store the night before it opened to the public. He said his grandfather Howard Miller asked the uncles – then 17 and 19 – if they wanted to open a hardware store, but didn’t give them much time to think it over.
“I need to know by Monday morning,” Miller told them, according to Sommers
Four decades later this March, the store is now a third-generation family business. Sommers is the chief financial officer and cousins run store departments and handle public relations. Sommers said the construction of the store includes 100,000 board feet of cedar. The story of how it all got there is another example of the family’s decisiveness. Sommers said they were told, “It took 100 years to grow them to this point and now you want them in two weeks.”
Sommers said the new store was designed on 305,000 square feet – including the outbuildings – on two levels with six entrances and color coded departments. “The concern was to make a very large store convenient,” he said.
On the main floor, former builder Paul Miller (no relation) showed off the store’s home decor area. Think a grown up version of a Barbie Dream House. Inside the “idea house” Miller said everything customers see is in stock, and is made in America.
“You’ll see that a handle is missing here or there – that’s because we haven’t found any USA made yet,” Miller said.
In the kitchen and bathroom departments, everything from countertops to paint samples and cabinets are modular and can be mixed and matched.
“We want people to be able to visualize how things look together,” he said.
Hartville Hardware Sales Manager Bill Melvin said the store will have five outside sales people and have in-house training. Prices will be competitive with Home Depot, but the store also will stock higher- end goods.