Hardware stores remain cornerstone of community
Family owned businesses provide friendly services, tools to do the job

By Chris Bennett - Special to The Freeman

April 13, 2018

Jeff Burchardt, owner of Lorleberg True Value Hardware in Oconomowoc,
said locally owned hardware stores offer convenience.
Submitted photo

DELAFIELD — When all else fails, your local hardware likely won’t, and that’s how Adam Hahn tries to get his employees to view their job.

“Nine out of 10 times might not be good enough if we don’t meet that customer’s expectations every time,” Hahn said. “It might be the difference between turning in our parking lot or going down the road to one of the big boxes.”

Hahn is the second generation of family ownership at Hahn Ace Hardware. The family owns stores in Delafield, Mukwonago and Hartford.

Jeff Burchardt owns Lorleberg True Value Hardware in Oconomowoc, and points to the factor of convenience provided by locally owned hardware stores.

“It’s easy to do business with us,” Burchardt said. “We can act faster on any special requests, and the owner of that business is in that town, generating dollars that stay in the community.

True Value Hardware and Ace Hardware are titans of the American retail landscape. Where the two differ from larger competitors such as Lowe’s, Menards or Home Depot is in local ownership.

“Every day I get to come to work at a place to help people and help them feel good about their projects,” Burchardt said. “They can get everything they need with one trip, have the right products and be successful at it.”

 

Perry, Barb and Adam Hahn stand outside one of their three Hahn Ace Hardware locations.
Submitted photo

Hahn previously worked in retail at Target’s corporate headquarters in Minneapolis and returned to the area when his parents expanded their hardware empire.

“It takes a unique person,” Hahn said of the hardware business. “Someone who wants to interact with customers day in and day out and develop those relationships.

“We always say we can teach hardware, but you have to have the right people to start.”

The locally owned hardware is a staple of any town and evokes thoughts and memories of a slice of Americana that is being gradually lost to online shopping and big box retail outlets.

Hahn’s oldest store is the family’s Hartford outlet, and opened in 1870 under the operation of George Hess. Perry Hahn — Adam’s father — started working at the store in the late 1970s, and quickly worked his way up to manager.

“It was one of my father’s first jobs out of high school, and he really found a passion for it and all the things that go along with it — working closely with your customers, knowing people personally, and being heavily involved in the community,” Adam said. “Those are some of the things that drove them to ultimately own a hardware store.”

Perry and his wife, Barbara, bought the Hartford store in 1999. The Hahn empire expanded in 2013 with the purchase of the Delafield store and again in 2015 with the purchase of the Mukwonago store.

Burchardt’s father bought Lorleberg True Value in 1970 — 100 years after it opened. Burchardt’s father started working for the last of the Lorleberg family at age 15.

In 1958 – three years after the founding of True Value — Burchardt’s father signed-up to be part of the chain. Jeff Burchardt has owned the store since 1999.

Both Burchardt and Hahn said they believe their seasoned staffs and smaller footprint make their stores more appealing than a big box. Ace and True Value both carry considerable purchasing power, and both Burchardt and Hahn said they are competitive on price and outstanding on service.

Both stores rent tools and other equipment, sharpen knives, repair small engines, cut keys, re-key locks, repair and build screens, cut and fix glass and cut and thread pipe, among a multitude of duties.

Burchardt said one of his employees is going on 50 years with the store and said many of his managers have been there for 10-15 years.

Hahn echoed Burchardt’s sentiment and said many members of the Hahn workforce count more than 15 years at their stores.

Hahn Ace Hardware is on the web at www.hahnhardware.com. Lorleberg is online at www.lorleberg.com.