Lee and Terri Stoltz moved from Canby to Union 3-1/2 years ago to buy Union Hometown Hardware. Aided by all-around employee Lindsey Dick, middle, they’ve grown an anchor business in the downtown area. (BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH photo)
Store owners take chance with store purchase, relocation to Union County
UNION — Lee and Terri Stoltz, owners of Union Hometown Hardware, are counting their blessings this holiday season. Blessing at the top of the list? A great town to live in.
Three and a half years ago, Lee took a gamble by giving up a 30-plus year career with a battery manufacturer in Canby. He and his wife had always wanted to be in business for themselves, and they felt sure they’d found the right deal in a little hardware store in Union.
The Stoltzes didn’t have any relatives in the area, not even acquaintances to speak of. Union had the hardware store for sale, and that was one thing they were looking for. Surrounding Union County had wide open spaces and scenic beauty, and that was another.
“We both like to ride motorcycles,” Lee said during a work break at the store Wednesday. “We took a tour, and we liked that the roads weren’t that busy.”
Union also had a peaceful, small town-friendly air to it, and maybe that was what the Stoltzes were craving most of all.
“The people seemed really great, and after being here over three years, they’re awesome,” Lee said.
The couple bought the business from the Bare family, made improvements including an expanded lawn and garden department and a remodel in the rear of their building that gave them more storage space for an expanded inventory.
Hardware is by far the main thrust of the operation, but like a lot of people doing business in small towns, the Stoltzes vary their goods and services. There’s an espresso bar and a liquor store on-site, generating extra income.
“You have to diversify, or you won’t stay in business,” Lee said.
Which makes things interesting for Lindsey Dick, the store’s chief employee. Dick, who worked more than three years for the previous owners, stayed on at the change of ownership and continued learning the business. By now she knows the inventory inside and out, can cut and thread pipe like a pro, and whip up a mean mocha besides.
Dick’s been at the job since she was a teenager, and isn’t planning to switch employers anytime soon. She said she likes the nuts-and-bolts side of the business, but more, she loves interacting with the community.
“I love it here. It’s nice to get to be able to talk with people and hear the stories they have to tell,” she said.
Terri Stoltz said that if Union Hometown Hardware is a small town success story, it’s due mostly to a commitment to above-average customer service.
Lee is a handyman and never hesitates to lend his know-how to people involved in do-it-yourself projects. Everybody on the staff works hard to make sure the customer gets exactly what he or she wants.
“The main thing is keeping customer service No. 1, and being well stocked,” Terri said. “Our big goal is getting more and more people to know about us, and we are getting new folks. We get a lot of people in from Cove and North Powder.”
Running a small town hardware store hundreds of miles away from busy Canby and bustling Portland is happiness for the Stoltzes, but not happiness all in itself. The real reward, according to the couple, lies in being accepted by folks in Union.
It’s nice to be the business that hosts and displays the community Christmas tree, as the Stoltzes do. It nice to help the Lions make improvements to the city library, which the Stoltzes have.
And as Terri likes to say, when you give, you get.
This fall, Lee had an accident and broke one of his heels. He was laid up for awhile, and incurred medical expenses. The owners of the Union Hotel down the street put on a spaghetti feed, with the proceeds going toward those costs.
It’s one in a long list of blessings the Stoltzes are counting this year.
“We’d like to thank the community for accepting us and supporting us,” Lee said.
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