GUARDIAN — Chris Campbell didn’t start out wanting to run a hardware store.
“I was born and raised here and had a construction business here for about 25 years,” Campbell said.
He leans back in a large chair behind his large desk in a second-floor office of Main St. Hardware & Supply at 113 S. Main St. in downtown Warden and smiles. About 10 years ago, Campbell said, he opened the store because he was tired of running around Moses Lake all the time buying building materials for his main business, the construction and maintenance company. Shademakers, which he founded in 1998.
“So it kind of started off selfishly, I guess you would say, but it’s okay. It worked really well,” he said.
Main St. Hardware & Supply started small, in the 1,400-square-foot space that’s now filled with paint, sprinklers and pipes, which Campbell said he remodeled into an older building that was much more ready for demolition. only for a new tenant.
“You could basically see through the roof when we bought it,” he said. “So we rebuilt and started with that.”
Now Main St. Hardware & Supply occupies over 10,000 square feet in downtown Warden, selling a full line of power tools, grills and outdoor cooking supplies, HVAC ductwork and hoses, roofing materials, lumber, paint and building materials as well as household cleaning products. . Campbell even sells mechanical lifts, and a Genie lift is on display in their garden center.
About 15% of the store’s retail business is with the general public, Campbell said, with the rest coming largely from business people like him who don’t want to travel to Moses Lake to stock up. Because of his work as a builder, Campbell said he knows what other builders, as well as managers in Warden’s many industries, need to keep their equipment and facilities running.
“The majority of our business is made up of farmers and (industrial) factories — things that make them work,” Campbell said. “There are a lot of specialist items that we offer (because) I see needs for this (product, which) people just don’t think about. Things that we maybe wear and no one else around us (does).
Two of the examples Campbell gives of the things he hauls are thermoplastic polyolefin, a sheet of plastic commonly used as a roofing material on commercial and industrial buildings, and the type of steel doors used in potato warehouses or other commercial buildings.
“Things your general contractor wouldn’t think of carrying in a small town store,” he said.
Campbell said it’s harder to compete with big-box stores like Walmart, Lowe’s or Home Depot for the mainstream dollar simply because those stores can buy in volume and have lower overhead. However, he also noted that he can provide a level of personalized customer service that chain retailers cannot, and people constantly tell him that his prices are competitive with what they find elsewhere.
“Just being more of a ‘mom and pop’ type place, we know 99% of everyone who walks through that door,” he said.
Warden Mayor Tony Massa said Campbell’s business allows town residents to shop in town, which keeps taxpayer dollars in Warden, as opposed to Moses Lake or Othello. .
“I’m really lucky because I work in Moses Lake, but for people who aren’t working, it’s an amazing opportunity, especially with fuel prices where they are,” Massa said.
“He’s doing a really good job,” Massa added of Campbell.
Campbell said Main St. Hardware & Supply also tends to focus on carrying one major brand — like its extensive collection of Milwaukee tools — rather than several different brands.
“We have a wide variety of things. But we just don’t sell five brands. We’ll be offering a brand of one thing and maybe a brand of another, just to try to have a bit of everything in one store to serve everyone,” he said.
And Campbell considers owning and operating a hardware store his retirement job, something he can continue to do when he’s no longer interested in the hard work of building and repairing.
“I don’t want to go out and swing hammers anymore, I’m kind of fed up,” he said. “I can sit here and help people and visit and, you know, work inside and outside.”
Campbell said he remains attached to Warden, where he was born, went to school and started his construction business. He said he had received offers from major companies to sell Main Street Hardware & Supply, but wanted to keep that business in downtown Warden and locally owned.
“It’s my little thing, and I really like it,” he said. “We may not be the biggest or the fanciest, but you walk in and the guys know your name. They know where you work, what you do, and how your family is doing.
Charles H. Featherstone can be contacted by email at email@example.com.