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After 37 years, Bruce Kleinsteuber knows the nuts and bolts of the hardware store business.
Kleinsteuber decided early on that he wanted to own his own business. The first opportunity that came along was a hardware store – Highland True Value in Louisville, which he bought in 1976.
When the decision was made to close that store, he looked around and found that Pat Bennett was looking for someone to buy the family business, Bennett Hardware, on Main Street in Taylorsville.
Kleinsteuber bought the business in 1995 and kept the name. Despite intense competition from larger “box” hardware stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, he says the key to staying in the game is probably some of the best advice he ever received: “Keep a good inventory and try to help your customers.”
That’s been his mantra ever since, and advice he would pass on to anyone looking to start their own business – hardware or otherwise.
“The only thing we can do differently [from the big stores] is to help people do the job they want to do,” he said. “We offer service. We help people and, actually, we’re very competitive. Our prices are very competitive, and we have a good inventory.”
Just entering the building, which Kleinsteuber estimates to be at least 100 years old, it’s immediately clear where you are: It smells like a hardware store.
Kleinsteuber agrees. “I don’t know what it is; there’s just something about it.”
One fascinating feature of the building, which still sports unvarnished hardwood floors, is an ancient manual elevator, once used to transfer supplies among the buildings two floors and basement. The second floor isn’t used anymore, nor is the elevator, he said.
Bennett Hardware is packed with just about anything a home-owner might need for repairs or renovations, or just everyday living: Pet supplies, lawn and garden supplies, lighting fixtures, plumbing supplies, paint and paint supplies – and of course a large variety of nuts, bolts, screws and tools. There is even a lovely selection of gifts – cut-glass vases, picture frames and many other items – in the front window.
The store also sells lumber, though not at the rate it once did. Opening the door to the warehouse next to the store, Kleinsteuber said lumber used to be hand-stacked all the way to the roof.
“During the 1920s and ’30s, it was a big operation,” he said, adding that most of the homes built in Spencer County in that era probably were built with lumber from Bennett Hardware.
Whatever a customer needs, he said, “we got it,” along with advice on how to get the job done.
At 70, Kleinsteuber said he is ready to sell the store and take life at a slower pace. “I enjoy this, I like it. No question about it.” But, after so many years, it’s not easy standing on your feet eight or more hours a day, he said.
In fact, that’s the rest of his advice to anyone wanting to own a business: “Be willing to put in long hours, (because) you will,” he said. “We would like to find someone (to buy the store) with a lot of energy, who can put energy back into this store.”
Owner: Bruce Kleinsteuber
Address: 45 E. Main St.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Number of employees: 1 full-time, 7 part-time
In business: More than 100 years
Primary business: Along with the necessities such as nuts, bolts and tools, the store offers an inventory that includes anything needed for lawn and garden; automotive; electrical, lighting, plumbing and home-repair work; and even gift items like glassware and frames.
Website: While the store doesn’t have its own website, customers can visit DoItBest.com, which is the wholesaler Bennett Hardware sells for.