Most Loup City residents know that the True Value store re-opened as Kozak’s Hardware on the first of
January 2019. What might not be so apparent is that in the year prior, considerable family discussion, thought, and planning went into that opening date. As family businesses go, the hardware store is unique in that there are three sets of owners: Tony and Shauna, Mark and Marcia, and Eric and Stefanie. The True Value also has five employees: Chris and Jessica Stieb, Nancy Smith, Jason Ward, and Kiela Richards. There are challenges; Kuszak’ s Construction regularly takes half of the owners off premises during the building season. The Kuszak family balances those challenges with smart opportunity; on occasion, and during the winter they bring in construction side workers to do projects or surge for events. All in all, it’s the kind of juggling act that takes a strong family to perform, though there are non-monetary compensations.
One of the things that surprised the Kuszak’ s was their collective anointing as “experts” in all-things hardware. Some of it is just knowing the specifications of what they sell, but Tony says there are surprising numbers of people who come in for advice. Whether it’s a plumbing, electrical, painting, or general fix-it question, he is often asked for not only what the item is needed, but how to mount/install/replace or finish it. He could not even estimate the number of people who came in with a photo or two on the smart phone and a question “Do you have anything that will help me with this?” While he never critiques the photography, Tony finds that one of the best and most rewarding things about running a Hardware store is that by, definition, almost everything they sell fixes a problem. (He is getting rather good at giving photographic tips too)
Tony Kuszak believes it is important to any small community to have access to a hardware store. In addition to supporting the many professional local builders, the store supports a legion of at-home builders and do-it-yourselfers. He notes that demand during the past three months, has blossomed for home improvement products like paint, miracle grow, and many other “project” items. Much of this stems from the increased time at home or conversely, at the lake, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People now have time to work on all those activities that they couldn’t get to during normal times. Tony believes that an additional benefit may come from the increased visibility of what they carry. My own father in law used to say “If you can’t find it in our True Value, you probably don’t need it!” Family Hardware stores struggle during normal years with the common misconception that more is available in Grand Island or Kearney at the “Big-Box” stores. In most cases, it’s not quite so. There is also a price in going into the larger towns these days, and it’s not just the cost of gas! As a matter of fact, some things like floor coverings are much more economical if contracted through Kuszak’s. They carry a variety of engineered “click-together” floors as well as vinyl and carpet, and they coordinate the installation as well! Best of all, if there are any decisions or changes, they’re right here for a face to face adjustment!
Nobody knows what the future will hold for small businesses. The Kuszak family is working hard now and hoping for the best. They have a few ideas like increasing their spring selection of lawn furniture, adding more in their outdoor sporting selection, or building up the types and quantities of rental items. Like the rest of us, they are optimistically cautious and looking forward to a return to normalcy, at which time they will remain one of the business staples of Loup City and its surroundings.
Kuszak’s True Value Hardware is a member of the Chamber, and its influence can be felt in several other community activities through donations. We as a Chamber are proud to have their input and help in making Loup City a great place to live. This article is one of a continuing series highlighting local businesses.