CEDARBURG — If only Hank Beyer had a dollar for everyone who said his family hardware store couldn’t survive the invasion of the big box stores.

What those people didn’t understand was Beyer’s commitment to the art of listening. It’s what underscored every transaction, every interaction he has had with customers at his family’s Cedarburg store during more than three decades there.

A good day of helping someone solve a problem was the best day at work, Beyer said.

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But Beyer’s world has been a little upside down these past six weeks.

The face of Beyer’s True Value in recent years, Beyer, 53, made the significant decision to sell the store and transition from owner to customer. The sale was final on Dec. 12, 2022. His last day was Feb. 6.

“I was in there today picking up supplies,” Beyer said recently. “It is strange for sure. It’s been a lifetime.”

It has, in fact, literally been a lifetime. Beyer’s playpen was set up in the office of the former store in downtown Cedarburg when he was a child, just as his daughter’s would be in the office of the current store on the south end of Washington Avenue.

It has been a family store since the mid-1950s, when his grandfather and namesake, Henry Beyer, started the Badger Paint Store in what is now Wyndrose Fine Jewelry.

The Beyers got into the hardware business in 1968, when Hank’s dad, Richard, and uncle Bob, opened a Coast to Coast Hardware Store in the building that now houses Weeds and Boulangerie Du Monde.

They moved to its current location at W61N278 Washington Ave. in 1997. Beyer said the store’s 16,000 square feet felt like a convention center compared to their previous 5,400 square feet.

As a kid, Hank Beyer would help out around the store, sweeping floors, stocking shelves and crushing cardboard boxes. He officially became an employee at age 14, when he received his first paycheck.

Beyer continued to work there until he left for college at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to study chemical engineering. He said he discovered very quickly that it was not the path for him and he returned home and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, eventually obtaining a degree in marketing.

Beyer worked his way through college at the store.

In 1993, Hank Beyer bought into the business and became partners with his father.

He worked six, often seven days a week, through Christmas seasons, fall displays, spring gardening and summer BBQ seasons. It was Beyer, his family and friends who lined the lawns on the streets leading to the annual Cedarburg Fourth of July parade with small American flags — 1,500 of them — every year.

The mission was and has also been to provide service customized to each individual shopper, Beyer said. And that is where listening is key, understanding the exact nature of a problem. Is a sump pump broken, for example, or is the pipe simply frozen?

“That may not have always been putting a product in their hand. It might have been putting a phone number of somebody else who could solve their problem,” Beyer said. “To offer a good solution, you had to understand the problem. And a lot of that is just listening to and asking question to better understand the situation they were in so that we could provide them with the best, most economical solution.”

Doing the right thing was what was instilled in him by his father.

It has meant employing knowledgeable staff who also believe in the same values. And the large majority of that staff has remained at the store.

The decision to sell was in large part Hank Beyer’s, though not without the consultation of his father. The two came to the decision together then, Hank Beyer said.

“My father and I have always seen eye to eye and worked well together,” Beyer said.

The change, Beyer said, has been “life altering, not life changing.”

The store was purchased by Bharat Bansal, who owns several grocery stores in the state. His general manager, Jonathan Jensen, said the Beyers, including Hank’s mom Bev, have a great team in place at the store.

Jensen said he is in the store several times a week, but that the day-to-day operations are overseen by Store Manager, Tom Coughlin, who was already a longterm Beyer’s employee.

Jensen’s background is in the grocery store business. He said he is learning the nature of the hardware business. Everyone needs groceries, Jensen said. But at the hardware store, items like snow blowers may sit untouched until the need is there. He said they sold eight in one day after a recent storm.

He is impressed with the full-service operation at Beyers.

“You can buy it and get it repaired there,” Jensen said.

He emphasized that the strong team that the Beyers have put into place will not change. Neither will the name. That was kept as part of the sale agreement.

Hank Beyer, who has never had to create a resume before, is still deciding what he wants to do next. He is helping out Stehanie and Drew Hayes with projects at Art of Joy now, as well as pursuing a building inspection certification. He will take the exam on his birthday in April, he said.

“I just like helping people. I like having my hands in the mud, so to speak,” Beyer said. “I’m hoping someday somebody’s going to tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘I’ve got this perfect thing for you.’ This is not Hank’s retirement.”

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