BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The 3rd generation of Kempker’s True Value & Rental put their mark on the family brand just before the holidays when they expanded the family business by one, with the addition of a location in Huxley, Iowa.
Jason and Dustin Kempker handled the purchase of the fifth location under the Kempker’s True Value & Rental brand with the purchase of Hardware Hank’s location owned by the same couple for the past 33 years.
Huxley is a small, growing community of about 3,500 people nestled between Ankeny and Ames just outside the Des Moines metroplex, but inside the Ames metropolitan area. It’s located on Hwy. 69 just west of Interstate 35.
“This was the first time where mom and dad kind of stepped back and let the Dustin and Jason do the work,” said Chuck Kempker owner and operator of Kempkers True Value & Rental, Inc. Chuck is a second generation hardware man, learning from his dad, Bob Kempker who started the business in 1969 in Fort Madison.
Since that time, the Kempkers have acquired locations in Mt. Pleasant, Burlington, and Grimes, in addition to the newest Huxley acquisition. That location opened under the Kempker’s umbrella on Dec. 13.
“This is a smaller growing community and that business there was very well maintained by the family that owned it and the boys had been looking at for some time,” Kempker said. “We’ve never put reigns on the kids so we said if they wanted to go for it we’d back ’em 100%.”
Dustin said Jason had a friend in the area who knew the store was for sale and the two had been looking at it.
“All of a sudden it became real, but we had to let the dust settle on a few other things. We’ve all been in True Value together so it seemed like it could be pretty seamless for us,” Dustin said.
“This has been a true, blue mom and pop hardware store for 35 years. They were both involved in the business there every day so it has a good customer base.”
Dustin said the town just built a Fareway Grocery similar to the Fort Madison Fareway Grocery and is in growth mode.
“There’s a ton of growth and opportunity here. The towns right between Ankeny and Ames and that whole Des Moines metro area is right there, too.”
He said the future of hardware is good because of neighborhood hardware stores like the ones in the Kempker family. Being able to withstand big box stores and the internet is demonstrated in the success of the neighborhood locations.
“It’s hard to do hardware online. Shipping hardward just isn’t easy. It hasn’t caught on because people like that service aspect and want to be able to ask questions,” he said.
Chuck Kempker agreed, saying hardware has been able to withstand the larger discount stores and Amazon because of the personal service you get in the aisles of the local stores.
Jason Kempker said part of local hardware success in an Internet world is that you can’t wait for days to have something shipped to fix a problem.
“It’s the plumbing issues, the electrical issues. You can’t wait two days on some of those problems,” he said. “Some of those things need to be done right away and that’s what we’re here for. Especially the weather – in real cold years you have pipes that freeze. Everything in the hardware business right now, the Internet hasn’t created an answer for.”
He said the rental part of the business is the probably the biggest opportunity for the Huxley location because former owners Steve and Ann Quick didn’t offer that business.
“This will be our core hardware and rental business. It’s an 8,000 square foot facility and we definitely look to see the rental business being something we can grow.”
Jason attended Iowa State University in Ames and said traveling up and down Hwy. 69 going to campus he always had in the back of his mind, that “nice little hardware store in Huxley”.
“If Grimes didn’t work out, I always thought that would be a nice addition, but fast forward after the Grimes acquisition and the Quicks were still looking to sell,” he said.
He said his parents handled the negotiations for the Grimes store, but he was involved in the discussions and observed how that process works.
“I think it went great,” he said. “We did the discovery and negotations and all the fun stuff that comes with that.”