While experts long ago predicted the Big Box stores would drive locally-owned hardware stores out of business, through continued fine-tuning, two exterior remodels and a complete interior renovation, Hale’s Hardware not only proved them wrong, Hale’s continues to thrive.
It was in the spring on 1958, when Tom, at age 15, and his father, the late Vince Hale, traveled from Munster, Indiana for the third time to look at buying Dowagiac’s hardware store.
As an employee of W.T. Grant Co. for 24 years, Vince had to relocate his young family every two years throughout the Midwest. In June 1958, when Vince purchased what was then M-40 Hardware in Dowagiac, five businesses and the Moose Club were located in the same building, including a hair salon, dry cleaners, an appliance store and Martin’s grocery store.
Prior to the full family moving from Munster to Dowagiac, Tom said, “My dad and I lived in the house behind the store, slept on a mattress on the floor, and ate breakfast and lunch out of a cooler. Then, one at a time, we went to dinner at Wright’s Restaurant, which was located across the street.”
“During this time, my mother and three sisters still lived in Munster,” Tom said. “On Sundays my Dad and I closed the store at two and drove back to Munster for the evening. The following morning we traveled back to Dowagiac.” Week after week, month after month, the routine remained the same, until the start of the next year. In January 1959, Vince was then able to move his full family to Dowagiac.
In the mid-1960s, Dowagiac’s hardware store took on the Hale name, then known as Hale’s V & S Hardware. The early 70s saw another name change to Hale’s True Value.
“One by one, as the other four businesses closed in the 1960s, we purchased their space to expand our store,” Tom said.
“When Buy Low grocery store relocated in the mid-70s, we were able to purchase what is now the front part of our building, which allowed us to expand yet again.”
Over the years, Hale’s has continued to evolve. “We’ve always been known for relocating our departments, as we tried to fine tune product selection and how it is merchandised,” Tom said. The store has also gone through two building remodels, followed then by the complete interior renovation. Completed in 2011, new flooring and lighting were installed, departments were remerchandised and product lines expanded. While the remodel was likely difficult at times, since the store remained open throughout construction, Tom said it was well worth it.
“Today, we have a fresh modern look, a good selection of product and an efficient store layout. We continue to find, when our focus is on offering a wide assortment of products and excellent customer service, like our employees provide every day, we will continue to succeed.” Tom is quick to also acknowledge the many employees who have worked for Hale’s Hardware, and the residents of Dowagiac and the surrounding lakes area for having contributed to the store’s success. “My family is very grateful,” Tom said.