by ADAM GRUENEWALD
A longtime hardware store in NYA has changed owners.
Formerly Foley Bros. Hardware, owned by Paul, his brother John and John’s wife Connie, all of Green Isle, the business will be run by Dean Lind of NYA.
Originally from Green Isle, John and Paul both attended Arlington-Green Isle High School (Sibley East) and John worked in carpentry and also did cabinet work while Paul, who served in Vietnam, worked at Farmhand Manufacturing and several other jobs.
As brothers, John and Paul joke a lot about their partnership, both saying they got “dragged into it” by the other, as they first owned a hardware store in Green Isle in 1964, still right across the street from Connie and John’s house on Parnell Street.
The brothers later jumped at the opportunity to reach a bigger market and purchased the hardware store in NYA in November of 1979, previously owned by Vic, Zeta and Herb Lindert and several other owners for over 100 years.
“It came up as an opportunity as they wanted to get out,” said John, as they also changed the look of the building with a major remodeling project.
For Connie, a Cologne native and Waconia High School graduate, she also made a change as she had married John in 1965 and raised the couple’s seven kids – Karen, David, Carol, Mark, Susan, James and Joan. Paul has three kids, Patrick, Paula and Robert.
A self-described sales clerk, Connie worked in NYA after the brothers closed the store in Green Isle in 1981.
“I needed a change from being at home all the time so I started working their part-time,” she said. “It got to be full-time.”
While they had some business experience as their parents, Jack and Willie owned several businesses in NYA including Millers, now Unkle Thirsty’s, running a hardware store was still a challenge for the brothers and Connie.
“It was basically a learning process for us to,” said Paul. “To get in there and understand the business is different. It was a learning process.”
They soon developed expertise as they spent more time working in the hardware store, enjoying the business and working with customers, but then the demands started to change.
“Times have changed and that’s another reason why it was time for us to get out,” said Paul. “We were getting into high-tech electronic type of work rather than nuts and bolts. There’s still a demand for a small-town hardware store, but it’s not like it used to be.”
Age was a factor to as Connie is 69, Paul is 71 and John is 74.
“It was just time for us to call it quits,” said Paul. “Age was catching up to us.”
All three credited their customers for their support over the years, and their own determination led to their longevity as well.
“We didn’t know any better,” said John, laughing. “It’s been a good life for us. We’ve been in business for 49 years.”
The hardware store almost wasn’t going to last beyond their retirement, as there were plans for a phasing out and a liquidation sale, but Dean Lind stepped in at the right time to purchase the building.
“We were very happy,” said John. “It would have been sad, because we rebuilt that store and put all our work into it and just to see close the building wouldn’t have been good.”
John said they are all encouraged by Lind so far, and that he will do a great job.
“He’s just going to bring some new blood and new enthusiasm to it,” said John. “I’m wishing him well, but I think he’s doing well.”
In retirement, John and Connie plan to work on the house and spend time with their kids and 10 grandchildren while Paul plans to recover from a leg injury he suffered his first day off of work.
“We definitely don’t have our feet planted on the ground,” said Paul, laughing. “I definitely don’t have my feet planted on the ground.”
John also has a large project to tackle as the former site of the Green Isle hardware store is filled to the ceiling with merchandise, wood and other items.
“I told people last week I was on vacation,” said John. “I used my accrued vacation up. I had an hour a year and I had 49 hours built up that I used last week.”
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]