By Jamie Caulley
For the Hollywood Star News
Nine years ago, Kim and Tony Zeller, seized an unexpected business opportunity. Beaumont Hardware, 4303 N.E. Fremont St., where Tony had been a customer for more than seventeen years, was up for sale. By chance, the Zellers were in between jobs and looking for a new venture after working together for many years at Zellers Funeral Home.
It was no matter that the Zellers didn’t have any retail experience, that Kim was nine months pregnant or that they were planning a wedding in a few months. Between Tony’s love of mechanical, hands-on work and Kim’s savvy business sense, their complementary traits propelled them successfully through three life-changing events in the final six months of 2005.
Tony, who bought his first house at age 24, learned a lot about hardware and construction by fixing up his own home, as well as helping his family with maintenance at the funeral parlor. Later, he dabbled in rental houses as a second source of income.
“I couldn’t afford to have people work on my rental houses, so I just decided that I had to figure out how all this stuff went together,” he said about his self-education.
Now he is the guy on the storeroom floor who can help you find that thingamajig for your bathroom plumbing, repair or sharpen your garden tools or match the faded paint color of your kitchen cabinets. Kim, who mostly works in the back, keeps up their advertising and inventory, making sure they are stocked on everything from nuts and bolts to Pyrex and bath towels.
She aims to fill their shelves with items that their local customer base needs.
For example, the small housewares department developed because, “I would see a lot of moms come in and say, ‘I’m trying to help my daughter get her kitchen basics,’” Kim said.
Meeting the needs of the neighborhood also meant offering more canning items and growing their supply of eco-friendly garden products. Residents who previously traveled to Linnton or Johnson Creek for chicken-keeping supplies prompted the decision to stock urban chicken-care basics, such as wire, feed and water trays.
“This is a pretty loyal neighborhood. They want to shop local. They want to shop small,” Tony said.
The neighborhood has supported the small hardware store in its current location since at least 1957, when a smaller store shared building space with a dentist’s office and a television/radio repair shop. However Tony believes the business may have been started back in 1948 or 1949 with the original store located approximately a half block west, where Pizzicato stands today.
Kim and Tony have helped to modernize the business with the addition of their on-line store, where customers can order from their larger co-op warehouse, Do it Best, and have their items shipped to the store for free.
“People don’t stop here if they want a bathtub, because they know we are so small,” Tony said. However, customers can order just about anything for their home or garden from the warehouse including outdoor furniture, barbecues and water heaters.
No matter what you’re looking for be sure to ask, likely the Zellers or one of their dedicated staff can assist.
“Our goal is to ask everyone who walks through the door if they want help,” Tony said.
The staff has been accused of asking folks if they need help too often, a problem the Zellers are okay with having. They know that their small, crowded store, which holds more than 20,000 items, excluding nuts and bolts, can verge on sensory overload.
Even if you don’t know what you are looking for, the staff at Beaumont Hardware is skilled at interpreting explanations, rough descriptions and even home repair charades, though Tony admits a smartphone picture can be the best help in quickly finding you what you need.
“Know there is someone here who understands what the thingy is,” Kim said with a laugh.
Don’t miss their spring $1,000 give-a-way, good for in-store and on-line purchases. Enter now through May at the shop.