SWEET HOME — At one time, there were seven or eight different hardware stores in town, said Greg Mahler.
Today, only Hoy’s Hardware remains in operation, added Mahler, the mayor of Sweet Home and the owner of the business.
“We’ve weathered the storms,” he said.
Mahler credits the store’s longtime success to a strong emphasis on customer service, as well as a wide selection of quality products, competitive prices and a willingness to change with the times.
“We’re constantly adding some services or modifying things to make the store that much better. We can’t be complacent. We have to be innovative and stay on top of technology,” he added.
The business has 20 employees and sells hardware, gardening supplies, lumber, fishing gear, paint, housewares and more and also has a nursery and a mechanic’s shop for small engine repairs.
Hoy’s Hardware, originally called Johnson Meyer Hardware, opened in the 1930s in the heart of downtown Sweet Home.
Ivan Hoy purchased the business in 1939.
Hoy was a pillar of the community, serving as fire chief.
“He was a man of integrity, back in the days when your handshake meant something,” Mahler said.
Mahler’s father, John Mahler, purchased the store from Hoy in 1971. There was no contract to seal the deal, just a handshake agreement.
Because of Hoy’s reputation, the elder Mahler kept the name of the business the same.
The Mahlers moved from Los Angeles to Sweet Home when Greg Mahler was 8. “I grew up in the business for the most part,” he said.
There have been major changes. In 1973, Hoy’s Hardware moved to its current location at 3041 Main St. 1986 brought a major expansion that more than doubled the size of the store to 14,700 square feet.
In November, a Hoy’s new lumber center opened next door. A grand opening is set for May 10-15, and the event will include special deals, giveaways and raffles.
John Mahler, 81, is retired nowadays. Theoretically. He still stops by the business every day of the week, showing up early to sip coffee and find out what’s happening. He also works the floor and the cash register, interacting with customers and sharing a vast knowledge of the products.
“He wants to make sure this business is thriving and moving forward,” Greg Mahler said.
The No. 1 thing John Mahler teaches employees is customer service, his son said.
“Everybody sells a hammer. You have to give the customer a reason to buy it from you,” Greg Mahler said, adding that big box stores can’t match the service of a small town shop.
Being affiliated with Ace Hardware and True Value Hardware helps keep costs competitive, and Hoy’s Hardware carries all major brands, not cheap imports, Greg Mahler said.
Another key for the shop is its connections to the community. Hoy’s donates to local schools and charitable organizations, and the Mahlers have both been active with local politics and the Sweet Home Fire District.
“If you take care of the community, the community will take care of you,” Greg Mahler said.
The long-term success of the business seems likely, as Greg Mahler’s daughter and son-in-law, Jill and Evan Ray, may take over the store years from now.
“They’re showing pride in ownership and that’s key,” Greg Mahler said.