SPARTA — It’s been 42 years since Craig Sagehorn bought a hardware store in Jones Plaza on the north side of Sparta.
Today, he’s more than happy to still be working at The Hardware Store, now at 904 S. Black River St. along Highway 27, alongside his son, Paul , and Paul’s son – current owner Wyatt Sagehorn.
Craig sold the hardware store to Paul in 2009, and Paul in turn sold it to Wyatt in September 2016.
All three work at the store, although Craig and Paul spend some of their time driving semi-tractor trailer trucks around the country as owners of their Paul Sagehorn LLC freight-hauling business. And Wyatt and his brother Hank also continue to operate their Hank and Wyatt’s Lawn Care business. Hank also works at the hardware store, as does Paul’s sister, Kristin Pulham.
Wyatt, 22, had worked at the family’s hardware store part time since he was 15, but has been full time there since becoming its owner two years ago. A 2014 Sparta High School graduate, he also is in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
“I’m glad I’m continuing the family business,” Wyatt said of his decision to buy the hardware store from his father. “I’ve always been interested in business and it seemed like a good opportunity.”
Paul, who has passed along his hardware expertise to Wyatt, said he also is glad that “my dad is still active and able to pass along his knowledge to his grandson.”
“I think it’s neat” that the store is in its third generation of Sagehorn ownership, Craig said. “It’s very nice, it’s very satisfying. Our family is very traditional in all respects.”
The store has a large selection of hardware, paint and lawn and garden products.
“The hardware is the core of the business,” Paul said. “One thing that’s really taken off (in the last few years) is rentals of inflatables for birthday parties and other events.” The store has a dozen inflatables — such as bounce houses, an obstacle course and a climbing wall — that are available for rent. It also rents equipment such as U-Haul trucks, Bobcats and carpet cleaning machines.
The store has had different names and affiliations — such as Our Own Hardware, True Value and Ace Hardware — in the past four decades. It has been known as The Hardware Store since 2009 when Paul bought the business from his father and switched affiliations. It now is supplied by Orgill Inc., a fast-growing independent hardware distributor based in the Memphis suburb of Collierville, Tenn.
In 1986, Craig Sagehorn moved the store from Jones Plaza to its current location, which he built after learning that the Walmart chain was about to build a discount store nearby. (The Walmart supercenter that opened in 2003 on the city’s west edge replaced the Walmart discount store that opened in 1986 on Black River Street.)
“Everybody thought I was an idiot” for deciding to move the hardware store close to a new Walmart discount store, Craig recalled. “My logic was you can’t fight Walmart. I thought we’d take advantage of the increased traffic (that Walmart would bring to that part of Sparta) by getting closer to them.”
That decision paid off, Craig said.
The Sparta hardware store has survived for so long, Craig said, “Because of our service and the fact that we really care about what we do.”
It has about 10 employees including family members, and most customers live within 20 miles of Sparta.
Craig and Paul and Paul’s wife Kristina also are active in the annual Wreaths Across America program, which in December lays wreaths at the graves of military veterans at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., and at more than 1,100 additional sites. Paul will use one of his two semi-tractor trailer trucks to haul about 3,700 wreaths from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery, where Craig and Paul’s wife Kristina will help distribute them.