Mike Unterreiner clocks more than 17,000 steps each day before leaving work.
Unterreiner isn’t an athletic trainer, he’s the co-owner of Hartman Hardware on Johnson Drive in Shawnee. Hartman Hardware is celebrating its 70th year in business, and Unterreiner and his wife Lisa Hartman Unterreiner have been running it since 1998.
Mike Unterreiner described the company as a complete hardware and repair store.
“Our location is great,” he said. “We are on the corner of Nieman and Johnson Drive. …We get a lot of traffic that goes by here.”
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Unterreiner said the 3,000-square-foot store is easy to find – it has an old Lawn Boy mower painted on the side of the building.
Q: Describe what products Hartman Hardware carries?
“We are hardcore hardware,” Unterreiner said.
By that, he means, “there are no appliances, carpet – it is the basic plumbing fittings you can’t find in other places, (and) electrical parts. The store also sells paint, lawn and garden equipment, and handles screen and window repair, lawnmower and snow blower repair and sales.
Hartman is a Lawn Boy dealer.
Q: How does Hartman differentiate itself from other hardware stores in the area?
Unterreiner said Hartman is not a chain or box store in either size or scope.
“We’re a small mom and pop,” he said. “We offer customer service. We personally wait on all of our customers. ...You come in the front door and we are here to greet you.”
Q: How did the business get started?
Lisa Unterreiner’s grandfather Clarence “Red” Hartman Sr started the hardware store in 1946 after returning from military service in World War II.
Later, his sons joined the business and became Hartman & Son. Eventually, the Hartmans opened a second store in Mission that son John Hartman ran while his father Red ran the Shawnee location.
Mike Unterreiner joined the family business in 1984 after completing one year of community college.
“I was silk screening t-shirts when I met Lisa and they mentioned they needed some help and I needed a change,” Unterreiner said. “Basically, I just stayed.”
He learned the hardware business on the job. Unterreiner would go out with his brother-in-law, a plumber, and learn those skills. Unterreiner also spent time working along side his father-in-law, who had been a mechanic in the military.
“Then we built our own house, and I got a lot of experience that way,” he said with a chuckle.
Eventually, the family split the corporation.
“We bought the store from Red in 1998,” Unterreiner said.
Unterreiner’s brother-in-law continues to own and operate the Johnson Drive store three miles apart, but some connections remain.
“We buy from the same suppliers, so we can call down and borrow back and fourth,” Unterreiner said.
Q: Hardware stores often have lots of items - how do you manage your inventory?
Unterreiner said Hartman Hardware has thousands of items to manage, everything from small pipefittings to lawn mower parts, but he hasn’t conducted a formal inventory.
However, every item has a tag on it.
“If you see the line tag with no merchandise, you order,” Unterreiner said. “Basically, you have to walk the whole store. ...On a given day walking eight-to-10,000 steps is a cake walk.”
Q: Who are your customers and how do you market to them?
“For mowers, we get people from all over, Bonner Springs, Lenexa, Kansas City. We get them that far away for repair.”
When spring rolls around, Unterreiner said Hartman repairs up to 60 mowers of various brands.
The store sells about 100 lawn mowers a year, down from a high of 200 some years ago.
“Competition cuts into your sales,” Unterreiner said. “When I sell a mower, I put it together, fill it with gas and when they get home they are ready to go.”
Hartman continues to do screen and window repair in house “and that is a huge thing for us,” Unterreiner said.
Q: What is the biggest hurdle you face in business?
Marking its 70th anniversary in business, Unterreiner said the greatest challenge Hartman faces today is competition from large box stores.
“Back when I started here there was a Payless Cashways and a Westlake. Now we have two Home Depots, a Lowe’s and a couple other stores,” he said. “It makes a huge difference when the huge box stores come in. It takes away business, but we have hard-core customers who come here regardless. …For many, we’re like their last stop.
Q: Future/succession plans?
The Unterreiners used to have four employees helping in the store. Their children worked at Hartman part time before going off to college. Now it’s just the two of them.
“We found it more economical for just the two of us,” he said. Unterreiner would like to change the situation.
“I’d like to not be here six days a week and take vacation. …We can’t close the store down,” he said.
In a nutshell
COMPANY: Hartman Hardware
ADDRESS: 11018 Johnson Drive, Shawnee
TELEPHONE: (913) 631-7592
WEB SITE: www.hartmanhardware.com