The Mack True Value Hardware store in Mission has been open for business through a lot of things.
The year 1939, when W.W. Mack opened its doors, was the momentous year Germany invaded Poland, baseball player Lou Gehrig retired and the “Wizard of Oz” made its premiere.
Business has changed, too. Big box retailers have beaten out many of the mom-and-pop retailers of yesteryear, only to be threatened themselves by online vendors.
A couple of those big box retailers have set up shop not too far away from the business, now run by W.W.’s grandson, Kelly Mack. Still, the store is popular and busy and is even expanding, mainly because of the friendly service customers get when they come in the door, Mack said.
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“It’s somebody saying hey, we’re glad you’re here, rather than getting you into the store , getting you to the register so I can get to the next guy,” he said.
Q. Did you always want to take over the family business, and how did you prepare yourself?
“I grew up in the store and I’d gotten comfortable in the business,” Mack said. “I started off pushing a broom in the mid-’70s, cleaning the windows, adjusting shelves, that kind of thing.”
He went to Kansas State University for a business degree and then ran another hardware store in Denver for a while after graduating. But he eventually came back to Johnson County and has run the store for the past 20 years.
Q. What’s the secret to keeping a business running successfully for so long?
“I don’t think there is a secret to it. It’s just treating people the way they want to be treated. Our customers are treated as friends and as people we want to see. We’re not churning and burning dollars here,” he said.
Q. You have a Home Depot and a Lowe’s within five miles and yet you are expanding. How do you compete successfully with those bigger retailers?
Despite the seeming advantages of the volume retail stores, some emerging trends have been working in Mack’s favor, he said. Customers are now gravitating toward smaller stores, for example. “I think people are tired of larger stores,” he said.
Also, there’s been a surge of support for locally owned stores of late. “People really want to support locally owned businesses. The money spent here stays in the community and helps the community become better,” he added.
Being a True Value store also helps keep prices competitive, he said. True Value is a buying co-op in which member retailers can come together to get a better price for the goods they’ll resell. The member stores can get better and quicker access to products. “As an individual store, there’s no way we could buy a product at the pricing or selection you need to be competitive,” with a volume outlet, he said.
Q. How have customer’s needs changed over time?
“Years ago, lawn and garden was not a big deal, now it’s probably 40 percent of our business,” he said. Pet supplies have also become popular. And the store just started selling live chickens this year to meet a growing demand from people in nearby towns that allow backyard chicken coops. The store sells the chickens and supplies to people who are driving another trend toward home-grown food, he said.
Q. What do you see as the next frontier in competing with online vendors?
Eventually, Mack would like to tap into online selling, possibly by having a website where customers can select their products and pick them up at the store. Some grocery stores are already doing this. He also sees extending the hours for customers that need time after their own work.
Q. What is the biggest challenge in running your business?
“Just keeping a positive outlook,” Mack said, laughing. “It’s keeping a smile on your face, keeping the faith in business.”
In a nutshell
Company: Mack True Value Hardware
Address: 6004 Johnson Drive, Mission