Lewiston owners grateful for community support
By Joshua Maloni
Good news for DIY-minded River Region residents: Warren’s Village Hardware is no longer for sale.
In December, owner Bill Warren announced his family’s Portage Road property was available for purchase. He cited a desire to retire, and said, “It'll be 11 years in springtime that we've been here. We built the business up to where it belongs, we feel. It's time to let somebody else take it over – take it to the next level.”
Bill had the perfect person in mind – his daughter, Ashley – but didn’t expect she would be interested.
On Monday, he explained, “As we got towards the 11th hour here, she realized that she might lose something that we had, and worked at making a success.”
Ashley said, “My boyfriend (Rick Wesser) and I kind of took another look at it and said, ‘Well, we have the knowledge; we have the experience that people are looking for; we’ve got great clients.’ … My parents built this place up to a great spot. And we live in Lewiston. So, it just all kind of made sense.
“It was kind of a no-brainer after a while. We almost lost it, and realized that it was something wonderful. And we love our customers. … We've been getting hugs and just ‘Thank yous’ for keeping it open. It means so much to us.”
Bill emphasized the goal right along was to keep the property a hardware store.
“We talked to a number of people that were interested in buying the store, but didn't have a background in the business,” he said. “And that was a little concerning to us. You have to know the business, and be the business for it to work. So, that was difficult to see happen, that it might go that direction.”
He noted some parties interested in acquiring the store “thought they could just buy it and manage it – from afar. The absentee ownership, that doesn't work either, in my view.”
Warren’s Village Hardware carries more than 11,000 items.
“When somebody comes in here to work, the No. 1 thing is to find out where all 11,000-plus items are,” Bill said. “And then, we have to know a lot about a lot of things, to answer questions, to speak intelligently. And that's in each and every department: plumbing and electrical, lawn and garden, creating solutions for problems – and that's where Ashley excels. Her mind goes a lot faster than mine does these days, I guarantee that much. Providing solutions.
“And that’s really where we fill a void that does exist. We might not have everything that everybody wants, every time they walk in the door, but we keep expanding our inventory to meet demand.
“You have to know what’s here, and how to use it, and how it works, and why it works that way. Just because you turn the water on, doesn't mean you know what happens at every step.”
But Ashley does.
“Since I was a teenager, my parents have had houses that we worked on and remodeled, rehabbed, and really took our time doing. And so, since I was 14, I've been painting and plastering and plumbing, and just following behind them,” she said. “I've had good teachers in them; my brother was a great teacher; I’ve just had a lot of good teachers throughout my life – and a lot of hands-on experience remodeling those houses. I've done a few of my own.”
She added, “It's not like I just look at a product and know how to use it. I've actually used it, and know the ins and outs, and what not to do. That makes a difference.”
Moreover, “It's fun problem-solving. It's all a big puzzle. It's fun to find the pieces and help somebody. Even if they just need like a handle tapped out, or a window or a screen redone, those little things mean a lot to people.”
Of course, Warren’s also is known as the place to find recommendations for all sorts of repair people, private contractors and outside vendors. Relationships that lead to that level of trust don't happen overnight.
“We get calls every day,” Bill said. “Even if they're not buying something. We make referrals. We know the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Since the “For Sale” sign was removed from Warren’s Village Hardware, “We've had a lot of positive reaction from the customers who didn't want to see anything happen to the store, let alone lose it – although I never thought that would happen. We wouldn't let that happen,” Bill said.
So, “We're going to keep going forward,” he noted. “That means that I'll be involved to a lesser extent. I'm going to slow down a little bit, but still it'll be a gradual evolution.”
Bill reiterated, “We’re happy to be here.”
Ashley said, “We really appreciate everybody's support. I get a little teared up talking about it, because everybody's … just so gracious and thankful.
“I mean, I guess I kind of thought it was just a hardware store. I didn't realize what it meant to people.
“The community’s amazing, and we want to thank everybody.”