In 1961, Ken and Kathleen Otto fulfilled a lifelong dream by purchasing Pine Lawn Hardware & Appliance in North St. Louis County. In 1967, they opened the first Handyman True Value Hardware in the nearby city of Florissant, providing hardware to a rapidly growing community.
Today, Ken and Kathleen’s sons, Dave and Glenn Otto, are continuing the legacy of service.
Handyman True Value Hardware now operates two stores in Florissant and a third location in Oakville, Mo. The stores average 32,000 square feet for the sales floor with an open layout that lets customers see the unique niches found in each store.
Celebrating over 50 years in business, Handyman True Value remains family-owned and operated. Dave’s son Brian and daughter Christine represent the third generation of the family involved in the business, while his son-in-law, Jason Fank, manages the Oakville location that won the overall Best Hardware Store in Town award for all True Value stores this past year.
Dave and Glenn say the biggest retail lesson they learned from their father was work ethic. “I started filling shelves at 10 and saw his dedication to the business,” says Dave. “He would sweep floors so he could run into customers, rather than spend his time in the back office. He taught us the importance of being directly involved in the business.”
An expanded lawn and garden department features over 1,500 square feet of live goods, and lawn and garden generates 45 percent of sales. Patio furniture is another strong niche that has been expanded.
STIHL outdoor power equipment was added last year to the Telegraph Road store and has been well-received by pros and homeowners. Paint is the number two department with True Value and Benjamin Moore paint offered.
Wild bird is a great category for repeat sales for homeowners, while one store stocks lumber and building materials for pros and is able to feed LBM products to the other two stores.
Customers can pick up household cleaning products, or take advantage of installation services for kitchen remodeling, cabinets, countertops, decks, vanities, showers, water heaters, faucets, doors, ceiling fans and more.
Each of the three Handyman True Value stores has been honored as Best Hardware Store in Town for True Value’s Kansas City regional distribution center. These stores all exemplify the roadmap to retail excellence and the six P’s: Product, Promotion, Place, Price, People and Performance.
The original store was 6,000 square feet but is now over 30,000 square feet after four additions. “We can offer more of a complete shopping experience now,” says Dave. “We have knowledgeable help on the sales floor and offer a number of categories with depth you can’t find at the box stores.”
Rental equipment and party goods rental have been offered in two stores for the past 10 years, helping boost repeat customer traffic.
With 160 employees all able to offer high levels of customer service, Handyman True Value is able to stand out in core categories like plumbing and electrical. “We can answer plumbing and locksmith questions, and know what faucets and stems are used in our area,” explains Dave. “We hire knowledgeable staff and make employee retention a priority.”
Having everything from building materials and housewares to automotive and holiday trim, Handyman True Value serves as a one-stop shop for customers. “We’ve been with True Value since the 1960s, and we have great allegiance to them,” says Dave. “Their product selection and monthly promotional specials have helped us drive footsteps.”
Having a strong price image starts with buying right, according to Dave. “We buy large quantities and we drive footsteps with ads that make us look competitive and gives customers the feeling they got a good deal with excellent service,” he adds.
Business has been steady so far in 2018, despite the presence of Lowe’s and Home Depot in their market. Although it’s difficult to measure the impact of Amazon, Dave believes it has been minimal and points to their own increases in online orders that are picked up in the stores.
Handyman True Value contributes to schools and churches and makes a difference in lots of big and small ways. They have been active in the Chamber of Commerce for 35 years, have a float in the annual parade and Dave has served on the local hospital board for 15 years.
“It is gratifying to be honored with the Beacon Award for our performance,” says Dave. “Every day we’re honored that customers make us their number one destination and keep coming back for their hardware needs.”