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A part-time job led to a 45-year career in hardware

Posted on 25 September 2017 by calvin

A loss to the community as River Lake Hardware to close its doors by the end of the year

Article and photos by STEPHANIE FOX
Jim Logan in River Lake HardwareJim Logan (photo right), one of the owners of River Lake Hardware at 36th and E. Lake St., has been greeting a steady stream of customers all morning, as he does most days. Often showing up as early as 7:30am, he has been doing this for 45 years and this morning, the word has gotten out that by the end of the year, the shop will close for good.

In the beginning, Logan and his business partner Mark Enderlein never planned to be in the hardware business. Logan was in college, within 12 credits of getting an accounting degree, when he took what he thought would be a short-time job at River Lake Hardware. He remembers the exact date, he said. “It was Sept. 10, 1972,” and now, just one day short of 45 years, a sign announcing the going out of business sale appeared above the door. “I lived across the street and needed a job,” he said. “And, I thought it would be a good idea to get business experience. I didn’t think it would last long. But, I fell in love with it.”

Logan and Enderlein bought the store, a True Value franchise, in 1974. It was not Logan’s first business. He had owned a small sandwich shop in St. Paul, but somehow, hardware (and not sandwiches) got into his blood.

Enderlein also owns River Lake Small Engine and Racing, just down the street, which serves the go-kart racing community. “Jim and I have been 50/50 owners of the hardware store for 45 years,” he said. “I like to say that I own the half he doesn’t own.” Enderlein still works at the hardware store when the place gets crowded and busy. “In theory, I work every other Saturday when Jim gets off, but a lot of the time both me and Jim end up working together.”

At about 3,000 sq. ft., the shop is small, with a main floor and a basement, located down a narrow staircase. There are bins of nuts, bolts, nails and fasteners, racks of hand and power tools, lawn and garden, paint, shelves of plumbing supplies—and Logan knows where everything is located, down to the inch. The store offers services, too. And while Logan claims that brick and mortar businesses are dead, most of his customers disagree.

Many of his customers have been coming here for years. The 200 to 300 customers who come in each day are not big box store people. They come for good advice and expertise and because the store supports the neighborhood. (Yelp gives the store their highest five-star rating.) Logan calls his place the most laid-back hardware store in the Twin Cities.

“I can support my local hardware store because I grew up here,” said Travis Berg, who came in looking for a line level. “I used to come in here as a kid and spend my allowance. Now, I’m in construction. This place is partly the reason for that.” Logan sends him down to the basement for the level.

One customer comes in needing a new key. “That’s what I sell the most of—we sell 23,000 keys a year,” said Logan. He claims that most hardware stores take much too long in making new keys. “Count the seconds this takes for me to make this,” he said. There’s a new key, ready to go, in six seconds. Locks are repaired in 30 (or fewer) minutes. The shop also offers 24-hour window repairs service.

River Lake Hardware exteriorCustomer Sacha Muller lives nearby and says that the store closing is a loss to the neighborhood. “Business like this know the kind of houses in the neighborhood and what they need,” he said.

Logan said that after the store finally closes, he’ll spend more time in Saigon. Since buying a home there ten years ago, he’s visited Vietnam 97 times, spending two weeks every other month there. He brings back tiny painted wooden dragonflies, which he gives as gifts to his female customers. “There are only three women in the world who make these,” he said. He says he might get a job when he gets back, mostly to socialize. “I like people too much to do accounting.”

Enderlein plans on closing his machine shop business, as well. “I love the businesses, and I love the people, but the reason I want it to be done is that I just turned 65 years old and have ten grandchildren. I have an 86-year old mother who lives in Colorado, and I see her only once a year. My wife and I are going to do more family and more traveling.”

“This has been a wonderful time,” Logan said. “But, what’s most important to me are the people who have supported us for 45 years. When Frattallone’s [Hardware Store] came in ten-and-a-half years go, our customers still came here. I have no regrets. I could have made more money doing something else, but I wouldn’t be anywhere as happy.”

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