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Hardware Hank is Business of the Week

This month will mark the two year anniversary of ownership of Blackduck's Hardware Hank for Jessie Sparby and her husband, Matt. As much as they enjoy what they do, it is still difficult to keep up with such a competitive market.

"What I enjoy most about my job is the people," Sparby said. "I like meeting new people and helping them find what they are looking for. I also like the personal relationships that I have developed with the customers who come in everyday."

With Blackduck being so close to Bemidji, Sparby noted that there are definite challenges when it comes to owning a business like the hardware store.

"That's the biggest challenge of this job -- trying to get people to shop locally," she said. "We want people to know that we are competitive with our prices as we are constantly comparing our prices with those of the big box stores."

Sparby explained that with some items, it is impossible to compete with bigger chain stores, but she thinks it's important to let people know that they are willing to offer the lowest price they can to keep the business in Blackduck.

According to Sparby, the way she deals with competition is by having something stores like Home Depot or Wal-Mart don't -- personal customer service.

"You don't have to walk very far in our store to find a knowledgeable and friendly person to help you," she said. "If we don't have what people are looking for, we can always order it. We do a lot of special orders for people. How many times have you walked into Wal-Mart or Home Depot and they ask to order something for you or where to deliver your 20 bags of salt? We develop relationships with our customers and will deliver items for free in and around town. If someone can't make it to the store before we close, we often will set the items out for them or drop them off. Our service is the key reason I think customers return. And Wal-Mart doesn't offer free popcorn."

She went on to say her business is not afraid to admit when they don't have answers. They will, however, research customer's questions and get back to them.

Sparby said she is very thankful for the loyalty of the business's customers and for their continued support.

With the newer location of the hardware store, Sparby feels it has helped the business for the better. It's location just outside of Blackduck heading south on Highway 71 has allowed the business to expand and offer more products and choices to customers. Seasonal highway traffic has also brought more customers in to the store.

The staff at Hardware Hank consists of Tom Nendick, Mindy Kleeb, Dori Sparby and Bonnie Kuhlman.

"Our group works well together even though is is sometimes a battle of the sexes," Sparby said. "We have all learned a lot from each other, as well as from Tom, the previous owner. He is a good teacher."

This month, the store will offer the April Spring Sale, which will focus a lot on yard cleanup and outdoor projects. An expansion sale can be looked for in May.

"We are going to get public feedback during April's sale to find out what items our customers would like us to add to the store. We will have door prizes and specials throughout the store," Sparby said.

Blackduck's Hardware Hank also offers charge accounts, a service rarely offered anymore. Other specialty services offered by Hardware Hank in Blackduck are: key cutting, window screen repair, pipe threading, small engine repair, propane tank exchange, Rug Doctor rental, a hunting and license service counter, as well as a UPS service counter and also offer free gift wrapping with your purchase.

Hardware Hank is open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.