Writer / Tia Nielsen Photos / Dann Veldkamp
Eleven-year-old Greg Dannemiller was excited when his parents, David and Helen, opened a hardware store on State Road 135 in 1972. Full of gleaming machines oozing with power, intriguing tools and all manner of nuts, bolts and screws, what kid wouldn’t be eager to explore all those fascinating metallic creations?
The original Dannemiller Hardware Store and Service Center was located at the junction of State Road 135 and Main Street in White River Township. (Luca Pizza di Roma now stands in that spot.) That first building was small by today’s standards, but at 4,000 square feet, it was noticeable with its solitary sentinel location. When asked what else was on the road then, Greg replied, “Nothing.”
However, Greg’s father saw that it was only a matter of time before the Center Grove area would grow; and they would be there to serve the community.
In 1985, as businesses began to fill in the land gaps, Greg built the family a larger store a quarter mile south on SR 135. Greg spent his days building the store and service center in Greenwood. Then several nights a week, he commuted to West Lafayette for graduate studies at Purdue.
Massive shifts in American buying habits over recent decades kept Dannemiller Hardware busily adapting to market conditions. Rather than being all things to all people, they sought to specialize and present opportunity for individuals or businesses to find skilled solutions within their doors.
Greg had left the ownership of his West Lafayette construction company behind in 1993 to join the family business. When his parents retired in 2000, brothers Greg and Jeff took over. In 2005, a second store co-owned by the brothers was opened, with Jeff in charge of daily operations. Southport Lawn & Power store at 7101 Madison Avenue is two miles north of County Line Road in south Indianapolis.
When not one, but two, warehouse-size competitors moved in a stone’s throw away from the SR 135 hardware and service center, the product lines honed in on American built items as much as possible. Although True Value coo-op research advised Greg to focus on lower-end import products from China, as Big Box stores do, he I refused.
“I think it’s important to support the American economy. I didn’t want to support the Chinese economy. At some point, the consumer will have to choose who is going to survive.” Greg points out.
He adds that three things emerged with the recession: “1) Got to have a savings account; 2) we saw more cash transactions; and 3) people began saying, ‘I want better value. I want it to last 10, 15, 20 years.’”
Stihl® is one of the durable brand’s Dannemiller sells. “Stihl® requires a certified Stihl® mechanic (on the store’s staff) to sell their product. The same with Echo®.”
“Big-box stores don’t sell the top-of-the-line products. If you don’t have the means to maintain it or can’t get the parts, then people throw out lawn mowers and other power machines every couple of years. We expect the product we sell to last. And then we service the stuff.”
Dannemiller splits its business line 70/30 between power equipment (“Anything with a gas engine.”) and hardware. A notable feature of this type of store is the availability of small items. Rather than having to buy in packages, you can buy what you want in any amount, whether that’s one bolt, or two screws. That is what you can buy. Greg says,” We’ll always carry nuts and bolts.”
THE BIG MOVE
In 2013, Dannemiller agreed to sell his store location to Aldi. “It was a good business decision based on the age of the building and a mix of other factors.”
The current store will box up and move after March 1. During the process of securing land and building a new store in the Center Grove area, business will move to the Southport store. Internet sales and assistance by phone will be additional means of staying connected with customers.
With 42 years in the Center Grove community, Greg says people request multiple times daily for his business stay in the area. He aims to locate somewhere Smith Valley and Whiteland Roads.
It appears that the rapid surge of Internet sales and warehouse-size hardware home centers has intensified the usefulness of the expert neighborhood hardware store. People want to trust the advice received and products purchased.
Greg proudly says, “Power equipment sales and service is what we sell.”
Dannemiller True Value Hardware & Service Center
Temporarily operating out of its second store:
Southport Lawn & Power, 7101 Madison Avenue, Indianapolis 46227.
Phone remains the same: 317-888-4109.