It is safe to say that Joel Autry knows the nuts and bolts of running a business – especially his business.
Autry, who owns Hope Mills Hardware with his wife, Louise, has been working in the hardware business for 42 years.
William Deaver started the hardware store, one of the oldest businesses in town, on Main Street in 1975. Highland Lumber took over the business for a time but Autry bought it outright in 1984 and it became an Ace Hardware store chain in 1991. The store moved into a new building, next to the old one in 2001.
“We make a lot of keys and sell a lot of plumbing supplies,” says Autry, who is semi-retired. His son, Mike helps run the place these days. “Regular hardware is our staple and we also sell a bunch of paint and cleaning supplies.”
Eddie Garner, who has worked at the store with all three owners, says the store has always had regular customers. In addition to selling hardware, the store is known as a reliable news source.
“A lot of people come in just to visit, sit and talk,” said Garner, who is one of four full-time employees and two part-time employees.
Unlike many bigger businesses, the hardware store knows most of its customers on a first name basis and many of them drop by and “sit a spell” on the bench at the front of the store. Some of them even have unofficial titles like “security guard” and “inventory control specialist.”
The store sells everything a hardware store should as well as some unusual items, such as snow sleds, though Garner admits, “We didn’t sell many this year.”
“We try to have a little of everything,” Autry said, “and if we don’t have it, we will order it for you.”