“Steve Hammond: I’m an insurance agent. I have my own insurance business. Melissa is a middle school teacher. I worked in the paper industry for about 20-25 years. With the ups and downs in that industry, and the buyouts and the mergers and takeovers In 2013, I got caught up in a salary headcount reduction. From then on I decided I’m tired of somebody else determining my fate. I opened my insurance office, and it’s done well, and the opportunity for this came up.
Melissa Hammond: And you’re the mayor!
Steve: And I’m the mayor of MacArthur.
It’s Hammond Hardware and Lumber. We bought it about a year or so ago, worked on it for about a year, had a brief opening for a Christmas pop-up shop in December, closed back down for some more remodeling, and had our grand opening on March 20th of 2020.
Melissa: He’s good at managing people. Then, of course, as a middle school teacher, I’m used to managing people as well. We’ve got that going for us and we both enjoy people. This isn’t the first thing we’ve done together—we have a lot of projects that go on throughout the county just because we both enjoy helping people.
When I come down here on Saturdays, I really love being here with the people. Not that I don’t love teaching, of course, but I’m a very crafty person and have always made stuff to sell. Now I have my own storefront to sell them in because about a third of our store is actually a gift shop.
And I’ve always wanted to have an old-fashioned candy counter, so we’ve done that. I can put my crafts and things in there. We’re definitely not here to get rich. We wanted to bring the building back, bring a place back, some pride in the community, and we’ve employed four people.
Creating Hammond Hardware is just trying to help out. I think it was all just supposed to be.”
Steve Hammond: We originally looked at the building probably about seven years ago when Mr. Souders, the person we bought it off, listed it for sale to a realtor. It was too high priced for that time, so he gradually lowered the price over the years.
Melissa Hammond: We would drive by and Steve would constantly say, ‘I really love that building. I wish they would do something with that building! That building needs to open back up! It’s just gonna sit there and rot away.’
Eventually, we did a little research and came to find out the lady that I had worked with for several years and I didn’t know this – her grandfather owned the building!
Steve: The building here was built in 1902. The guy that owned it lived upstairs for 55 years, so it was not only his business but his home. People tend to take pretty good care of things when it’s not only your livelihood but also your living space, so the building was in relatively good condition considering its age.
Melissa: I started talking to the woman I worked with about her grandmother selling when she said, ‘Actually, he’s interested.’
We looked at a different building in Wellston and wrote up a contract. It fell through at the right time that this one came up for sale so that we could actually purchase it. It just worked out in our timing. It’s not even to get rich. Like we’re not really interested in money. It’s just to bring something back to the community.
When the price came down to where we knew that we could buy it, never open it and still be able to afford it, that’s when we bought it. If we make $2,000 a week or $100 a week, we know we’ll still be okay.
Even though we want it to succeed, it’s not a business that we need to make a living in—it’s something we can do together and help our community. And plus, we love bringing back old buildings! Why just let them sit here and do nothing?
We bought the building, got some things organized, and started working on the building. On the weekends when we couldn’t go out or do anything, it was only the two of us down here, we would come down and work.
It’s almost like a dream for us.”
“Melissa Hammond: Hammond Hardware sits right in the middle of the community and we’re the biggest building in town. Besides a gas station and a Dollar General, there’s no other businesses in this little community, just us.
We’ve tried to become a hub for what’s happening in the community. We had an outdoor flea market and 40 people set up with hundreds of people that came through, and that’s huge for here. Everybody was safe, could be outside, and we had a free lunch that day.
We sold Christmas trees at Christmas time so people could actually come to an old-fashioned Christmas tree lot. And people loved it!
A couple staying at Ravenwood Castle nearby heard about us and asked if we were doing anything for Christmas. We said, ‘Yeah, we’re actually gonna have a horse and carriage and have the Christmas tree shop again, and Santa is coming.’ They’re actually planning a vacation just so they can come down and see the shop at Christmas time.
We had an Easter egg hunt and there were hundreds of kids here. People in this area are just looking for things to do. Steve did his research, because of course you question like, ‘Will it be able to make it? Are there enough people driving by for this to make sense?’ He actually contacted the Ohio Department of Transportation to ask how many people–?
Steve Hammond: There’s a friend of mine who is the superintendent here for the ODOT in the county. I asked him, ‘How many cars go through Hamden on State Route 93 a day?’ He said, ‘5000’. And I said, ‘Do you just make that up? Or do you actually have data?’ He said, ‘No, we had the counters down there last year.’ ‘There’s 5,000 cars a day.’ I said, ‘Well, if we get 1% of those cars to stop, we’ll be okay.’
Melissa: If you research our area, we are 20 minutes away from Hocking Hills which is huge in the state for people to come down and hunt, fish, and kayak. We’ve actually talked to Travel and Tourism, and so we’re going to get put in their brochure. What we wanted to do was make it a place where tourists could come as well. I have a section set up that has things to do with Ohio and Benton County where you could actually take souvenir stones. It’s like we’re a general store.
Steve: Jackson’s not that far away, about 25 miles away or so. But still, that’s a half-hour, 40 minutes by the time you get down there and get through traffic and everything else when now you can just come here. Our hours are steady. They know when we’re open. Now we don’t have Sunday hours where other places do.
We have the basic hardware needs, an old-time candy shop, and a section for crafts we sell. But we’re a small space and we’re gradually stocking up. It’s just got a cool little vibe to it. We’re not a Lowe’s or a Menards by any stretch.
Melissa: I have a friend that runs the Rusted Barn in Wellston. Now, that’s a cool little store. They redo furniture and everything. She and I sat down to talk and I said, ‘I’m not in competition with you.’ And she’s like, ‘I’m not in competition with you either.’ I actually watch her Facebook page, and watch what she has for sale, and we go into each other’s stores so we don’t offer the same things. If there’s something that I don’t have here, I say, ‘Well, I don’t have it…but you know what? Tina does!’ They go to Wellston, and they buy it from her.
Steve Hammond: Shops like ours are a niche thing. Where else can you go and pick up a couple of pounds of nails, a bag of feed and some coffee, and maybe a wreath that my wife made? So just kind of little niche stuff. There’s power in numbers and having a huge inventory, for sure. But sometimes, and especially in this environment, I think people are just looking for something different. They’re done with the Walmarts and the big box stores because they know what they have. They don’t know what a little store like what we have and it changes all the time because we’re also getting different things in.
Melissa Hammond: And we have an old pop machine–well–it’s a cooler. We keep bottled pop in there. People will stop just to get a cold pop.
Steve: You can actually get a glass bottle!
Melissa: The fun part about it is we have these people come in and they want the strangest little things. And because Mr. Souders, who owned the hardware store first, did not clean out anything, we have the strangest little things laying around. They’ll be like, ‘Do you have something to plug up–’
Steve:‘–a drain and a flower pot?’ It was random and of course we didn’t have exactly what he needed. So I said, ‘Well, we’ve got these leg ends that are about that size.’ And he said, ‘Well, how much do you want for one?’
I said, ‘Well just take it.’
He threw a quarter down on the counter and said, ‘Okay, thanks!’ You know, just stuff like that.
Melissa: And then some lady came in looking for–what was it? A tire or something for her lawnmower?
Steve: She wanted to know if we sold little air compressors. And I said ‘No, but I have one in the back room. You can take it and use it.’ She took it and aired her tire up and brought it right back. She said ‘I’ll stop back in!’ I said ‘Okay, thanks!’
Melissa: It’s just like a little I don’t know…
Steve: Kind of like The Waltons, almost.
Steve Hammond: Melissa’s more visionary than I am, especially when it comes to things that the general public will like.
Melissa Hammond: We have a Tik Tok page, too!
Steve: But I’m like, ‘Okay, we need to get some hammers and nails and things people can use.’ And she’s like, ‘But if we had this, this would be really cool!’
Melissa: He always says that I’m the one with jazz hands. Everything has to be huge!
Steve: It can never just be simple. It’s got to be Hallmark.
Melissa: But that’s what people like! I have to give them something extra. We’re trying to bring people back into the community as well.
Steve: Her candy counter is a 1920 oak nail bed we got from another hardware store that had closed. We went and looked at it, and that’s what she’s using for her candy counter.
Melissa: One man who works for us said the other day some guy came in and sat and talked to him for an hour. Sometimes people just need people to talk to them. So we have time, and my husband enjoys talking. I think that’s a big part of it, too. It’s just who we have. My brother works here, he’s really good with people.
We have a young man that is a junior in high school, doing our online work. He’s a volunteer firefighter. Then on Saturdays, we have another young lady that works with us. She’s my boss’s daughter, actually, she’s gonna go be a physicist or a doctor. She comes in and she works a few hours on Saturday. And then me and my husband are here on Saturday. My sister says ‘They just want to come in and talk to you guys!’ It’s all about the people you have working in the store.
They tell us, ‘Thank you for actually believing that our community was worth it.’
Steve: Even the previous owner on our grand opening day, looked at the floors and said, ‘You know, I owned this building for almost 70 years and these floors never looked this good.’ The community, they just love that it opened back up.
Steve Hammond: We try to source, especially on her side, items that are locally made like candles, honey, crafts…there’s a young girl here in the village that makes signs for homes and stuff. We buy stuff off of as many local people as we can.
Melissa Hammond: Some of the Amish have made our birdhouses.
Steve: Yep, we’ve got some Amish and Mennonites goods here. Even on the hardware side, I try to buy out of Ohio. Like Wooster Brushes and Yenkin Majestic Paint out of Columbus. I try for local first and then to the US, but unfortunately some stuff you just have to go overseas to get. If it’s something I don’t have that I know another hardware store may have, we send them to them to get people to spend their money locally. It helps everybody.
We also handle animal feed and stuff like that. I get it from a supplier that’s up in MacArthur.
Because he’s a friend of mine, I messaged him one day and said, ‘Hey, what kind of feed do you sell?’ And he told me the brand name.
I said, ‘Well, I just didn’t want to compete with you’.
He said, ‘Why don’t we do this? Why don’t we work together? I’ll give you a break on the price to sell to you for a little bit more than what I have to pay for it. And that way, I don’t have to have to store it. I can keep very low inventory levels.’
He’s literally two miles from my office. So when I need feed, I send him a text and say, ‘Here’s what I need’. I go pick it up at lunchtime, run it down here. And I’ve had a dozen people say, ‘Man, I’m so glad I don’t have to go to Jackson or to Tractor Supply or somewhere to get feed that kind of thing.’ So it works out!
Melissa: We have Silver Bridge Coffee that’s also roasted around here.
Steve: You can buy that at Hammond Hardware!
Melissa: They’re wonderful because instead of charging us shipping, they will actually meet us right down here at the freeway whichever day we need them. We just get it off of their van and bring it here. That’s so nice of them.
We have so much support. We just want to leave a legacy.
Steve: I’ve got two sons and three grandchildren and it’ll probably be my granddaughter that runs everything. And the other two, my two grandsons, will be working for her, I’m sure!”
Melissa Hammond: Everybody says ‘Someone should do this!’ or ‘We need to bring businesses back!’ and ‘Somebody needs to do these things!’.
But I tell my kids, ‘That person is you.’
With the store, we wanted to be the people doing something.
Steve Hammond: Do some research, try and put some data behind your decisions, but a lot of times it’s just a gut thing. You just got to go with your gut. And it’s in a business like ours, it’s all about that personal relationship and service. That’s what it’s about.
Melissa: I would also be careful about who you’re listening to. Because when the person came in that supplies our hardware, they wanted us to get credit and go in–what was it?
Steve: In for something like $150,000. They wanted to take all the shelves out and replace everything. I said, ‘Guys, you see a Lowe’s and I see a 1902 hardware store.’
Melissa: Y’all keep your vision, make sure you know what your vision is, and keep it. Both of us sat down and created our vision for this…and then we stuck to it. Everybody will want to change your vision, but don’t change it.
We’re not going into debt for the stuff in the hardware store. We want to be able to pay it off. We’re not getting $150,000 worth of inventory because we can order it on Monday and it’s here on Thursday. If you need a shovel, we’ll get it to you by Thursday morning if we don’t have one here. They will say, ‘You can do this, you can do that’ and you need to learn how to say, ‘No, we’re not doing that.’
Steve: I mean, I understand their point of view. They’re used to stocking stores bigger than ours. But the supplier, he brought a picture and he said, ‘This is a store about your size.’ He showed us a bunch of pictures, and one of them showed eight garden hoses on the shelf.
I said, ‘You know if I ordered them on Monday, will I get in on Thursday?’
He said, ‘Yeah!’
And I said, ‘Well, why do I need eight garden hoses on the shelf?’
I didn’t want to be their warehouse. I just want the basics that people need. We’ll have stuff, people come in, and if we don’t have it, we’ll gladly get it for them if they can wait for it. If not, we send them to somebody we think will have it.
Melissa: Like I said, we’re not getting rich, it’s just helping the community, doing something fun together, and preserving a little bit of history.
We just want to keep it like an old-fashioned store. I want people to stop in for that.”
—Melissa and Steve Hammond, Hammond Hardware
Hamden, Vinton County