They purchased the business 30 years ago, expanded its inventory and built a new store. Now they are preparing to sell it, with the hopes that the buyer, or buyers, will continue the hard work they have put into the store.
April 7 marked the 30th anniversary of when Steve and Anne Quick took over the hardware store in Huxley. Last week, letters were mailed to customers who frequent the store, letting them know of the Quicks’ intent to sell the business. The letter also thanked the customers for the support they have given the store over the years.
"We want the community to know (we’re selling) because there could be someone out there who has a desire to buy it, who has an interest in the community and wants to see it keep going," Anne said.
With two young grandchildren and hobbies they want to have more time for, the Quicks decided now is a good time to retire.
"It’s a good time to sell. Interest rates are low and the economy is coming back," Anne said.
A look back in time
At the time the Quicks purchased the hardware store in 1983, it was known as Plaza Hardware and was located in the Ballard Plaza. The name and location of the business soon changed under the Quicks’ ownership.
Steve and Anne, along with their oldest son, who was just over 1 year old at the time, moved to Huxley from southeast Iowa after purchasing the hardware store. The decision to purchase the store came after months spent searching the classified sections of the Sunday newspaper for businesses that were for sale in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area or the Des Moines/Ames area. Anne said they focused on these areas because of the growth the areas were experiencing and would likely continue to experience. Since she had stepped down from her teaching position to stay at home with the couple’s newborn son, she would spend the weekdays calling the businesses that were of interest and setting up times to look at those businesses.
Steve said it has been a goal of his since he was young to own his own business. Several members of his family had owned their own business and he knew he wanted to one day be his own boss.
"I always wanted to be self-employed," Steve said. "I saw it as what I wanted to do with my life."
With little business-owning experience, other than Steve’s woodworking business he operated while he was not working his daytime job as an estimator for a steel erection company, the Quicks knew they wanted to find a small business they could afford and make succeed. They looked at everything from grocery stores to rental businesses, as well as other hardware stores. When they came across the Huxley hardware store, they knew they had come across a business and location that sparked their interest.
"Huxley fit what we were looking for and could afford, and the rest, as they say, is history," Steve said.
Looking back, Anne is glad they chose the hardware route, rather than operating a grocery store.
"I’m glad we didn’t do a grocery store because I hate throwing food away," Anne said.
One of the challenges they had to overcome shortly after taking over the store was the low cash flow the store had due to a small customer-base. Once people came to know the Quicks, more and more people began shopping at the store. They also changed their supplier from Wyeth Hardware to Hardware Hank. Anne said the Hardware Hank store in Woodward heard the Quicks had purchased the store in Huxley and wanted to see if they would join the Hardware Hank cooperative. However, the cooperative was skeptical because the Quicks were so young and did not have a lot of money. In the end, Hardware Hank decided to welcome the Huxley location to their hardware "family."
Part of what helped the Quicks build their customer base was that if a customer came in with a request for a product the store currently did not carry, they would special order that product. Anne said Hardware Hank allows them to order just one or two of a certain item, rather than buying an entire box. To this day, the Quicks keep a running list of all the special orders they make for customers so they know what they can and cannot get if they don’t regularly carry it.
After seven years in the Ballard Plaza, the business’ inventory had outgrown the approximately 3,200 square foot store and the Quicks could no longer lease the building. They bought the land where the store is currently located along south Highway 69 and decided to build an 8,000 square foot building. Ground was not broken for the building until after July 1, 1990, but they moved from their old building into the new one that fall, in October 1990.
Moving the stores inventory from the old location to the new building only took one day, thanks to the help of community members who volunteered their time. Anne said they had posted a notice in the local paper, saying the store would be closed the weekend they were moving. Despite the notice, many community members showed up at the store Saturday morning wanting to purchase products. Anne would tell them, "if you can find it, you can buy it." The cash register had not been moved to the new location yet, so Anne rang up their purchase, only to see the customers return later that morning.
"People would come and buy what they needed, then go home and change their clothes and come back to help us move," Anne said.
More than 60 people spent Saturday morning and afternoon removing products from shelves, tearing down the shelves, then putting the shelves back up at the new store and returning the items to the shelves. By 3 p.m., the old store was completely empty.
"You just can’t express how neat that was and how thankful we were that people gave up their time to help," Steve said.
‘It’s our way of life’
Interacting with all the people who come into the store is what Steve and Anne will miss most when they sell it. For every day the store is open, the Quicks can be found operating the store, along with the help of their four full-time and two part-time employees.
"We’re here all the time - it’s our way of life," Anne said.
For Steve, a lot of the people who come into the store are not just customers, they are also friends he has made through interacting with them as they’ve come into the store over the years. He cares about what is going on in their lives and asks about different projects they are working on, just as they will do to him.
"You can’t get that at Menards or Lowes," Steve said, referring to the connections he has with his customers.
Anne said she knows the customers so well that if she has a question aboout something, such as raising chickens, cutting hay or fixing a tractor, she knows which customers would be able to provide her with an answer.
While things may have not always been easy, Steve said if he had to do it over again, he would still make the decision to purchase the hardware store.
"It’s a lot of work and it’s not a way to get rich, but you can’t get a better job than this," Steve said.