By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Customers entering the Winsted Hardware Store and Garden Center receive a welcome from owners Greg Gehrman and Katy Born, and can usually expect a greeting from at least one of their three cats Oliver, Kiwi, and Mr. Allen Johnson who live at the store.
It is all part of the uniqueness and welcoming atmosphere that has made the newly renovated hardware store such a popular social hangout since opening in 2007.
It is also one of the reasons it was selected by the area chamber as the 2008 Winsted Business of the Year.
“Winsted Hardware and Garden Center is a great asset to the Winsted area community,” President of the Winsted Area Chamber of Commerce Tom Ollig said.
“The commitment the owners have made to Winsted has made Winsted a better place to live,” Ollig said.
The couple received a standing ovation when they were presented the award Feb. 21 by Ollig during the chamber’s annual banquet at the Blue Note.
“It was a pretty proud moment and nice to know that we are appreciated,” Born said. “We are not just out there to win awards, but it was nice to have that acknowledgement.”
In the two years since the Winsted Hardware Store and Garden Center opened, its inventory has continued to grow. Not a week goes by that something new isn’t added to the store’s list of goods.
“The inventory is good, offering a tremendous selection, and in the summer there is the garden center,” Jim Paradis of Winsted, who is a regular customer, said. “You just can’t ask for anything better. Katy and Greg offer the best service, and I like that black cat (Mr. Allen Johnson) who sits on the counter.”
In addition to tools and hardware, the store offers paint and paint supplies, houseware, camping supplies (tents, sleeping bags, Coleman lanterns and Coleman fuel), furnace filters, light bulbs, and plumbing fittings (all oddball fittings from 1/8-inch to 2 inches), lawn supplies, rakes, hoes, rain barrels, and more.
When it comes to retail in the store, Gehrman said prices are comparable to stores like Target and Menards.
“Since Katy and I started this, we have a coop affiliation through True Value. The sign was always up there but stuff came in from a lot of different places,” Gehrman said.
Using True Value, the ordering possibilities are endless.
“There is no request that is too out-of-the-ordinary. We want to hear them all and we will work with anybody to get the best deal going,” Born said.
For this year, one of the goals Gehrman and Born have set is to streamline effective ways to do the commercial ordering for business online.
“Any business account holder can do their purchasing online at their desk and see their own pricing,” Born said.
New garden center opening in May
Another goal the couple has set is for the garden center to be open sometime in May.
This year the garden center will be moving to the old creamery building at 211 McLeod Avenue, kitty-corner from TDS Telecom.
The old creamery will undergo some major changes this spring to include an iron fence surrounding the property.
The garden center will again offer both flower and vegetable plants. Vegetable plants include six different varieties of tomatoes, peppers onions cucumbers, cabbage, and broccoli. Also, a variety of plants that will be good for planting rain gardens.
New supplies available at the garden center will be paving stones and retaining wall blocks.
Other tools and supplies will be available at the hardware store on Main Avenue.
By moving the garden center, it will give the hardware store more room to expand.
“We are here to grow but nothing ever leaves town,” Gehrman said.
“Everything that comes in just goes right back out into the building, into another offering like the garden center, and the more that we all can do in town, the more we will see of other retail shops.”
Gehrman and Born are committed to the community. They are planning some special sale days when all proceeds from the store will be offered for the Winsted Lake Watershed Association, and another day will be set aside for the Adult Training and Habilitation two community groups that are important to the couple.
“Supporting the community and being involved. I think it is really important, and we really enjoy it,” Born said.
“Like going out and calling bingo and selling bingo cards at the Blue Note is something that we really enjoy doing. It is fun to see people in social situations and not just here,” Born said.
Born and Gehrman are planning to make the move to Winsted permanent, now that their apartment upstairs in the hardware store has been completed.
They are putting their home up for sale in north Minneapolis and are looking forward to cutting out the two-hour commute back and forth every day.
A new addition to the hardware store staff is coming soon. The couple is expecting a baby due June 22.