Interview with Diane Stehouwer, Owner.
1) How many years have you been in business? How did your business get started?
Our store opened in 1934. My grandfather was not a successful farmer, so he thought he would try the hardware business. My father was a teenager then and worked right into the business. After serving in WWII, he got married and then bought the store. I started working here when I was in second grade. When I asked my mom why I always had to clean the bottom shelves, she said that I was closer to them. I went off to college and taught school for six years. In 1981, my husband needed a job and my dad needed an employee, so we moved back to Fremont and bought the store in 1986. The store had a housewares and gift department for as long as I could remember. As I started going to the gift shows by myself, I found a little display of Hero Arts rubber stamps. That was in 1990–25 years ago! Bob kind of laughed at the idea, but they really sold well. At the next show I discovered heat embossing and bought PSX stamps. My customers started asking for acid free paper and stickers. Out went the gift department and the rest is history.
I would say that the paper craft department is about 25% of the total sales in the store. I work full-time and I have two wonderful part-time employees up front with me. Sometimes the hardware supports me and sometimes I support the hardware. I don’t think I would still be in business if I was not partnered with my husband. Sharing the costs has been very important to us.
2) What makes your store unique?
Haveman True Value Hardware is not just any old hardware store. This one has a paper craft department! I am frequently asked by out-of-town customers if their True Value store back home has a paper craft department also. I have to disappoint them and tell them that theirs will not. Ours is a Ma and Pa store–I am Ma and Bob is Pa– so I can do whatever I want! We are located in downtown Fremont, a small community off the beaten track in west Michigan, about 50 miles north of Grand Rapids. People drive hundreds of miles just to visit this store. Close by, you will find great clothing stores, coffee shops and restaurants. There is even a car dealership nearby. If your husband gets tired of looking at hardware, he can go look at cars. Being a hardware store, we also open very early in the morning. Most craft stores do not open at 7:30 AM Monday through Saturday, but we do. The girls may not be here until 8:30 or 9, but you may still shop earlier. Since we are a hardware store, we have unique products that card makers and scrappers like to use: foil tape, adhesives, wood veneer, rope, nuts and washers for men’s cards and pages. Look around and be creative! In the store we also have free popcorn, coffee, cookies and Tootsie Rolls. There are chairs for the men and kids to sit in either up front or in the back with the guys. Those amenities usually keep everyone happy for quite a while. We also sell pop, cappuccino and candy bars. And … we have cute shopping carts! True Value offers a rewards card that is good for the entire store. If you need to pay for a mower repair or buy house paint and need some paper and rubber stamps, it all applies on the card, helping you get to your reward sooner.
One thing I am known for is my huge selection of Memory Box dies. I also have dies from many other companies and am willing to special order as many as I can. A service I have provided for nearly 15 years is free use of my Accu-cut machines. I have numerous dies including alphabets and fun little boxes that you can choose from. If you buy my paper, you may cut it for free. There are special needs high school students who come in weekly to cut out the things their classroom needs for their scrapbooks, handmade cards or party decorations. You will frequently see the Amish in here also; they like to cut out letters so they can put verses on their doors or walls. The Amish are great card makers as well.
Haveman Hardware has been featured on television and in hardware trade magazines several times because of our unique combination of products for both men and women. A customer came in one time, stopped and looked around and then she said, “Now I know why my husband never wanted me to come along to the hardware store.” I also have a large flat screen television which plays You Tube videos all day. There is a large SALE department too; I like to keep my stock “fresh”. If something does not sell, I move it out so that I can have something new. New product arrives every single week and my girls are constantly moving things around and freshening up the department. They love to do it, and it is necessary because of all the new products coming in. If you don’t see what you want, we will special order it if possible. Great service is our pride and joy!
3) Do you offer classes, crops, weekend retreats, and other events?
I have no classes, crops or weekend retreats. There was a time when I had it all! Times have changed for me, and many of my customers come from so far away. Now I have something better! For my customer’s convenience, I will give free advice, lessons and demonstrations all day, every day. You do not have to pay and come back at some later date to learn about a technique. I will tell you how the card was made, demonstrate a tool and let you take pictures of our many samples–all of this is at no charge. I have two tables in a brightly lit area up front in the craft department, with no charge to use those either (just make reservations). You may bring in your own supplies. I have an “Honor System” to record the papers and such that you use while here, then we just check you out in one easy transaction. If you want to organize a group of 3-4 friends, tell me what you want to learn and choose a time convenient to us all, and I will be HAPPY to do a class for you. Women have had little birthday parties this way and then have lunch downtown too.
4) How do you promote your store?
I have a Haveman Hardware Facebook account and hundreds of email addresses of customers to whom I send information about new products, events, specials and samples. Let me know if you would like to be on this list. Email is my communication of choice because it is fast and free. When you visit my website, you will notice the tan tabs located under the red tabs. I have added the tan tabs to make this website unique to Haveman Hardware. Just hover over a tan tab and then click on what you want to check out in the topics that appear below. You may check out any of the hardware tabs as well, we just all know that the craft department is the most fun!! The other best advertising I have is in Michigan Scrapbooker. Look for me on the Michigan map!
5) What is the biggest challenge that you face as an independent business owner?
It is the internet that is my friend and foe. E-Bay and Amazon really hurt. What bothers me is when someone buys something there and comes to me for advice. If you buy something from me, and I know the answer, I will smother you with plenty of free help and advice. Our day is much more fun if we are working or playing with you! The big box stores are not really a problem as they cannot change their assortment as quickly as I can. I do not mark prices up so that I can offer you a coupon later as some of them do.
6) Contact information:Haveman True Value Hardware 29 W Main Fremont MI 49412 Phone: 231-924-3320 Fax: 231-924-5829
Monday – Thursday 7:30 till 6
Friday 7:30 till 7
Saturday 7:30 till 5
Gina Karas, our guest blogger, is a traditional scrapbooker with a passion for photography. She works full-time as a Sales Assistant in the construction industry, but spends her spare time crafting with her mom and crazy friends! “Scrapbooking keeps me sane!” she says. See her projects and posts about scrapping & crafting on her blog, California Scrappin’.