Hardware businesses thriving as residents grow restless

Kayla Anderson
Tahoe Daily Tribune
Langenfeld Hardware, formerly known as Scotty's, in South Lake Tahoe.
Mike Peron / Tahoe Daily Tribune

As the weather warms up in Tahoe, locals are getting restless and tackling home improvement “honey-do” projects.

Across the country, large retail stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s have lines out the door despite stay-at-home orders but even smaller hardware stores in Lake Tahoe are noting that it’s busier than usual at this time of the year.

Here is what business has been like at local hardware stores around the lake:

Langenfeld Hardware (formerly Scotty’s), South Lake Tahoe

Blaze Hiob has worked at this hardware store for almost 34 years, and looking back at last winter, he doesn’t remember much until it snowed in March.

“January until March business was slow, we just had a couple of snowblower repairs,” he said.

Then the store sold in February to become Langenfeld, and management contemplated doing a remodel. It seemed like perfect timing, so staff went ahead and started painting all the doors and walls, opening up a new service area, moving inventory upstairs, and is currently putting in a new floor. Soon they’ll be adding a new outdoor equipment section with fishing gear, kayaks, RV accessories and more.

“With coronavirus going on, we thought we’d get some downtime to do this remodel,” Hiob said. “But then overnight the light switch flipped, and people came flooding in. I think people were tired of being cooped up inside.”

It all happened in the beginning of May when the weather got nice and people came rushing in, buying up lawn and garden supplies.

“Within the last two weeks things really picked up, we got hit pretty hard,” he said.

And while they didn’t expect the big rush all of the sudden with people buying soil and sprinkler systems, the hardware store was prepared with a full crew and they’re staying busy, working on lawnmowers and fixing chainsaws.

“Literally within a day or two everyone came in,” Hiob said.

While business does tend to pick up this time of the year as the weather gets nice, during the pandemic things have been a little different.

“I think it took a lot of people by surprise,” he added.

Plus, the neighboring Nels Tahoe Hardware store has been closed, so Hiob believes that it may have pushed some of their customers into Langenfeld.

“I think they had a limited number of employees who could work or wanted to work,” Hiob said.

Over at Langenfeld, employees who want to wear masks are welcome to do so and they don’t require their customers to wear them.

“We try to keep 6 feet away and read a customer’s body language,” Hiob said. “If someone comes in wearing a mask and gloves and seems concerned, then I’m sure to keep my distance. We are constantly wiping surfaces down and keeping things clean. People have different opinions about it, but we’re a very hands-on store. People want to touch and feel certain tools and parts.

“It’s an interesting situation right now but we’re taking it day by day and accommodating our customers as best we can,” he added. “I just had a customer who came over a little while ago and honked his horn and I ran out to his car with his supplies, we’ll do that for them.”

Hiob is happy to go to work every day and enjoys being a part of the remodel.

Langenfeld Hardware is open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sundays 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Village Ace Hardware, Incline Village

Over on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak recently announced that retail stores can open their doors to the public again as part of the state’s Phase 1 reopening plan. Village Ace has been taking orders over the phone and online, but when they actually invited customers back inside, it became a whole different story.

“We just opened to the public two days ago (May 11) and saw an influx of people,” said Village Ace Manager Reggie Tynes.

“We never actually closed but people were able to do online ordering and it got very busy. I guess people weren’t content to stay indoors and do nothing, so they started looking for things to do around the house.”

He’s seen a lot more people than usual buying gardening supplies, planting fruits and vegetables and working on their drip line systems. Tynes adds that people buying lawn and patio items is normal for this time of the year except there seem to be more people fixing up their homes and kick starting their spring cleaning.

“I don’t know if they’re growing their own food to prepare for an apocalypse or if it just gives people something to do,” he said. “But there’s definitely an uptick in home projects getting done.”

Like other retail stores, Village Ace ran out of essential supplies pretty quickly, such as bleach, gloves, masks, and toilet paper. However, those supplies are slowly starting to come back in.

Up until Village Ace’s reopening, Tynes says that business was steady the first few weeks of April, but then he thinks that people started getting more antsy.

“The second half of April is when it got really busy,” he said. “We started selling a lot of potting soil, seeds, and planters, it’s like everyone decided to take up a new hobby. There’s definitely more indoor and outdoor planting going on.”

Along with that, people are still buying barbeques and patio furniture, perhaps planning to spend more of their time outside of their home.

“Everything’s normal for this time of the year (in what people are buying), there’s just an increase in the number of people,” he said.

As April wore on and spring projects started to ramp back up, Village Ace just got busier and busier.

“It was really hard to keep up with the demand with the online personal shopping and phone orders,” Tynes said. “We would have 200 or so people waiting outside while we’re pulling orders to take them out, and when we opened their doors to the public this past week, we doubled our customer count.

“It has been quite the social experiment,” he said. “We were busy but not nearly as busy as when we opened. People prefer us being open, they were happy when they could walk through the aisles again. And we’re happy being open, too. It’s been an incredible journey, for good and bad.”

Village Ace Hardware is now open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. for walk-in shopping.

Employees and customers must wear non-vented masks or coverings over their nose and mouth while inside the store.

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