GALION – What if we told you that your local hardware store – the place where you buy commonly useful tools – was something more?
This is also the case with HR Wolf Hardware. It definitely has some surprises for new customers. Frequent customers probably know the inventory well, and there are many repeat customers. Stand near the entrance and listen as almost every customer is greeted by name.
They also have clients from Crestline, Bucyrus, Mount Gilead, Ontario and more.
So what’s so surprising about Wolf Hardware?
The store is actually three storefronts open to one store – they house a lot of inventory. The smell of freshly popped popcorn may not be the product customers are visiting the store for, but it is there near the checkout for customers to enjoy. Contractors and DIY enthusiasts will find trim, nuts, bolts, gardening supplies and items like lock picks that you can’t find in modern hardware stores.
And one of the latest additions is a spectrophotometer that allows them to match colors and even identify color matches in fabric accessories. They have also expanded their power supply.
“There has never been so much inventory,” said Rick Wolf. “Even during COVID we were able to expand. And we have great customers, simply great customers.”
The shop is owned by Rick and Amie Wolf and three generations of the Wolf family currently work in the shop including his parents and their daughter Elizabeth.
“Poland Hardware has been here since 1967, I think,” said Amie Wolf. “I know Willard and Annabelle Poland have been at this location since the ’60s and we bought it in January 2008, but we didn’t change the name until December 2018,” she said.
“Before that we worked here. My father worked here for over 25 years. He is a retired firefighter from Galion and worked here part time even when he was with the fire department. And when he retired, he was still working part-time. And then when we bought it, he was there almost full-time…plus. Mom has probably worked here for over 20 years.
Formerly a True Value store, True Value changed direction from a co-op to a general wholesaler, and the Wolfs decided to work with another wholesaler that gave them more flexibility. They changed the name of the store to HR Wolf Hardware.
“I don’t think hometown appliances are unique anymore because you don’t see them much anymore,” said Rick Wolf. “Independent hardware stores have little ‘gems.’ They have the little individual things that department stores don’t carry.”
And then there’s the craft section, specifically counted cross stitch supplies, although there’s quite a bit of quilting supplies and paints too. That’s a surprise.
Counted cross stitch inventory is definitely something a hardware store chain wouldn’t offer and Rick Wolf was a little unsure when she suggested it and the answer continues to surprise.
“I know Amie has great ideas and I know that ultimately she has the best interest in the store. I just didn’t realize how many people it would attract — that surprised me,” said Rick Wolf. “It’s not just someone doing cross stitches, men, women and children, it’s not. It’s the person who brings them too. It’s a road trip: that will help the whole business.”
Customers arrive and then ask for restaurant recommendations? What other stores should they go to? It becomes an advantage for all of Uptowne Galion.
“I think everyone can benefit from each other. In a small town, everyone has to help everyone,” he added.
For those who think cross stitch is a dying art because they can’t find patterns and materials in stores. It’s not dead and HR Wolf carries the evidence.
“I’ve had people tell me they’ll work for me for free if I take them to Nashville [to the show,” Amie Wolf stated. “You would have to go to Columbus, otherwise you’re going to Findley for cross stitch, patterns, or floss. Even most of that you’re not going to find at a JoAnn’s.”
To promote the cross stitch, which continues to swell with interest, she listed them on a Facebook group called Stitching Road Trip.
“When I was in Nashville [at a show] I spoke to the admins of the site and they said, “Just make a post,” and I got 1,200 replies in less than 24 hours. In the last three weeks I’ve had people from Hamilton, Cincinnati, Marion, Caledonia, Tallmadge and Detroit,” she said.
They ship their cross stitch products. Last month she was shipped to Texas and Pennsylvania. And she is currently working with A1 Printing to add a dedicated cross stitch section to their website.
She added the craft department in 2014 and it’s been growing ever since, but in the last two years COVID has boosted her enthusiasm for cross stitch.
“As a family, we have to do things that make us happy, do things that make us fun,” she said.
Her daughter Elizabeth, who also works at the shop when she’s not graduating from college, wasn’t interested in cross-stitching until they attended the show in Nashville. “Well, there were 132 vendors or designers, so you walk in and there were just all these beautiful cross stitches on display. All things from Kreuzstich from 1985, but it’s so much more than that now. There’s so many things out there,” said Amie Wolf.
They stock Stitching with the Housewives, Primrose, Black Cat and many more. She works with individual designers instead of buying from wholesalers. In this way, she receives her products a month before they are released to wholesalers or offered online. This is how some of the extra-state orders are initiated. She posts the designs on Facebook, where they have a large following.
They hope to be included in an online list of sewing tours that encourages sewers to visit stores across the state. It’s a win for couples, she explained. Wives can visit the Cross Stitch Corner and their husbands are likely to find a hammer, garden rake, chain, fertilizer spreader or handful of nails they need.
Hardware buyers need not worry – there are plenty of tools, materials and supplies for the home handyman or contractor – there is just something more.
This is part of a series of stories about Uptowne Galion – a community of shops and businesses that make Galion their home.
Not every couple can work together every day, but Rick and Amie Wolf at HR Wolf Hardware have a knack for it. For some, their success may come from appreciating each other’s strengths.