MOUNT VERNON — The Mt. Vernon Hardware Co will be closing its doors at the end of the month.
Owner Joe Caplin said there are multiple reasons why the shop is closing. The store lost one of its biggest clients when Siemen’s left town. Caplin is dealing with some health issues, and it’s getting harder and harder for family-owned, brick-and-mortar businesses to thrive.
“You’re competing against online and you’re competing against big box stores,” explained Caplin’s son, Joie.
The hardware shop, located on the corner of West Street and Vine Street, has a long history of serving the Mount Vernon area. It opened in 1860 as Eagle Crest Mill. In 1940, it became a Farmer’s Exchange. The hardware store sold farm equipment, such as chain saws, cattle feeders and wood burning stoves.
Under the ownership of the Farmer’s Exchange Cooperative, the concrete silo was built beside the shop in 1948. The property survived the flood of 1959, but a fire ten years later destroyed the feed mill, grain elevator and co-op office building.
It wasn’t until 2002 that the Caplin family became the proprietors of the store. The Central Ohio Farmer’s Co-Op had bought out Farmer’s Exchange and decided to sell the property. Meanwhile, Joe Caplin and his brother, Tom, were working as salesmen for a hardware wholesaler that was going out of business, so they decided to go into business for themselves.
“This opportunity came up, so we jumped on it,” said Joe, who bought his brother out in 2012. He now runs the business with his son, Joie and son-in-law, Brandon Broseus.
The shop’s departments include lawn & garden, tools, auto, paint and supplies, plumbing, electrical, hardware, guns and a sizable selection of fasteners. Whenever possible, the store has carried American-made products. The family has also added extra services like welding, a U-Haul dealership and onsite storage units over the years.
“I think one of the main things that we sell here is service,” said Joe. Personal attention and advice has allowed the family to build up a loyal customer base.
“Almost everybody that comes in here we’re on a first name basis with,” said Joie. “We have a lot of regulars.”
Joe, Joie and Brandon agree that one of the best parts of running a small town business is that customers become friends.
“We have a lot of guys who have retired and they still come in,” said Brandon. “They still purchase stuff or they just come in to talk and gab, which is fun. We have probably five or six guys that pop in everyday.”
“This place has become a gathering place and I think that will be the hardest thing for me, is not seeing my friends on a daily basis,” added Joe. “Mount Vernon has been good to us. We love the people here.”
After spending 24 years working for a wholesale retailer, becoming his own boss was another big advantage for Joe.
“I don’t have to answer to anybody but my wife and God… God being first,” said Joe. “Working with family, that’s right up there also.”
The Mt. Vernon Hardware Co’s last day will be August 29.