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East Lansing hardware store relocates to REO Town after 70 years in business


The tiny hardware store specializing in locks, knobs and accessories moves from its tight quarters of over 70 years to a REO Town warehouse with more space.

Builders’ Hardware Co. moved to stay in step with demographic trends, according to Caryn Drenth.

“When we opened our second location in Marshall, we saw what a difference it can make to be in a vibrant shopping area with demographically-favorable foot traffic,” she said. “REO Town has many wonderful restaurants and shops. When we were touring different areas in Lansing, it stood out to us as having the downtown feel that we love in Marshall.”

The foot traffic in East Lansing changed over the years, Drenth added.

“As MSU has grown and thrived, which is a great thing, the foot traffic on Harrison Road is now 99% students walking to and from classes. That demographic isn't in the market for residential or commercial hardware. Though, we do make a few keys for them to replace lost ones.”

The business will also enjoy a better loading dock for deliveries and an improved parking situation at the former auto shop.

The staff will keep a small section of the new building as a memorial to the old space with the desk of one of the founders of the company and vintage lock and key making tools. There is also the original neon sign for the business on display. Drenth plans on getting it rebuilt soon.

Facing off against hardware giants for years, the business survives by offering a larger variety of hardware accessories for cheaper prices.

“We still specialize in hardware oddities,” she added. “If you have hardware that you are having a hard time finding a replacement for, we often can come up with a replacement or alternative solution for you.”

One example is Builder’s Hardware stocks discontinued cabinet hinges that get shipped all across the country as replacement parts, Drenth said.

Aside from the hardware, Builder’s also offers locksmithing services with residential and commercial installations.

A new addition to the store is 400 safety deposit boxes from banks in Kalamazoo and Detroit acting as storage bins for cabinet knobs and pulls. They give the new space a dose of the same vintage aesthetic from the old location.

Drenth grew up in the store working under her father and former owner Ron Knapp, who is still a member on staff. She said Knapp is a walking encyclopedia of hardware knowledge and can practically engineer any hardware solution.

“I've been taking inventory at that store since I was around 9-years-old,” Drenth said. “I have fond memories of the founders of the business, Ed and Crawford Hertel. They were the nicest people.”

The former location was the oldest commercial building in East Lansing. However, its charm sometimes was more trouble than it was worth.

“In the basement, there was an old piece of carpet on one of the beams where people kept hitting their heads. I don't think the taller members of our team will miss that,” Drenth said.

Builders’ Hardware Co.

7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday

 1009 S. Washington Ave., Lansing

(517) 332- 4115



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