Friday, February 06, 2009

Buying local: Frank's Hardware

Who frequents an independent hardware store? It's probably rare in these days of Lowes, Menards, and Home Depot. But, I'll tell you, I'll take Frank's Hardware over any of them, any day of the week.

I went to Frank's today because I needed to do something that I knew I couldn't do at any one of the big places. See, I needed a particular tool. I needed to find a socket that fit my engine oil drain plug. I've done my own oil before with borrowed tools, but my absentmindedness stopped me from noting what size wrench/socket I used to do the job. All I knew was that my own tool set didn't contain the right tools. So, I figured I either must pinpoint what size socket I needed or just buy a whole set of sockets that were larger than what my current tool set contains. Anyway, finances being how they are, I decided on the former. And I knew that there was only one place that could help me.

So I went to Frank's, the local, independently owned hardware store in Stevens Point, which still survives despite the long presence of several national retailers who offer better prices than they do. But they survive for a reason. And I'm about to tell you why.

Not a minute after I walked into the store, an employee came up to me and asked me if I needed help (this is standard at Frank's). And it wasn't just some random person hired off the street; this guy had some knowledge (also standard at Frank's). I explained my situation and he immediately had some suggestions for me (again, standard). And then he handed me a bunch of different sized sockets and told me I was free to go out to the parking lot and check to see if they matched what I was looking for. After two trials I found the exact thing I was looking for, a 19mm socket. $2.40 later (as opposed to $18 plus for a set of larger metric sockets), I was all set, going home with exactly what I needed--nothing more.

I know this sounds like some sort of advertisement, but make no mistake, time and time again I've found that a local establishment, run by local people, with local connections, is almost always better than the alternative. These folks have a vested interest in their community, whether they be hardware, agriculture, or food service. I hope we start to realize that these are the people that keep not only our communities going, but also our economy.

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