SPICER—For nearly 60 years the hardware store in Spicer has been known as Vegdahl’s.
When new owners take over Jan. 19 and the store is renamed Bonnema Hardware and Flooring, it will most likely still be known as Vegdahl’s.
“I’ll be calling it Vegdahl’s,” said Mark Bonnema, who is purchasing the business that has been owned and operated by members of the Vegdahl family for nearly six decades.
“Without a doubt, it’ll always be Vegdahl’s,” Bonnema said.
The transition in ownership marks an end to the family-owned business that began in 1959 when Hilmer and Evelyn Vegdahl purchased what was then Farness Hardware in downtown Spicer.
A large addition was built in 1977, and after Hilmer died in 1982, Evelyn and her daughter and son-in-law—Susan and Don Swenson—continued to operate the business as Vegdahl’s Hardware Hank.
“My kids were born and raised here,” said Don Swenson, who’s worked in the store for 50 years.
“The minute they were born, they were in the store,” Swenson said. “The boys loved working here.”
Swenson, 76, said he’s enjoyed the hardware business and the customers.
“I like visiting with people and helping them solve their problems,” he said.
Swenson’s wife, Susan, died in 2005 and after his mother-in-law, Evelyn, died in 2014, the decision was made to sell the business.
The family will host free coffee and cookies from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the store to thank customers for their patronage.
Swenson said it will be good to have someone with new ideas running the store. “There’s nothing wrong with new blood,” he said.
Bonnema, who grew up in Spicer, said he’s shopped at Vegdahl’s since he was a kid and is determined to keep the hardware store open.
“It’s important to me personally that this store remains in Spicer as a hardware store, flooring store and paint store,” he said.
When the hardware store closed last year in nearby New London, Bonnema said there was concern in the community when the “for sale” sign went up at Vegdahl’s that both small towns would lose their hardware stores.
Bonnema, who is 46, said his 27 years of experience in the floor-covering and contracting business will help him make the transition to hardware store owner.
“I did my research and got creative and found a way to make it happen,” Bonnema said.
He has used Vegdahl’s products and services for his own contracting business and hopes to attract more contractors through a special rewards program.
Bonnema said he will continue the Vegdahl’s tradition of providing top-of-the-line products and a wide range of customer services. During this last week, he said, he has been in the store watching customers looking for help with “their little gizmos and gadgets” and getting the help they need.
“In a business like this in a small town, it’s all about the personal service that the staff can give them and pretty much solve any problem they come in with,” Bonnema said.
While focusing on service and sales of paint and floor-covering, Bonnema said he also intends to add new products, such as kayaks, paddleboards and a full line of bicycles to go with the standard small-town hardware store fare that includes egg beaters, snow shovels and nails weighed on an old-fashioned scale.
Swenson said the fact that people shop at big-box stores has created changes in how small-town hardware stores operate. For Vegdahl’s, he said the loss of resorts on Green Lake has also affected business.
“Resorts were a big part of our business, purchasing everything from water heaters, paint, you name it,” Swenson said. “Everything under the sun they needed, they came in here and bought it.”
Bonnema said he’s confident the store will continue to thrive.
“I’m not too nervous about it at all,” Bonnema said. “I have no doubt the contractors and locals will support the business.”
After a new roof and heating and ventilation system is installed on the building, the interior and exterior of the store will get a facelift.
Bonnema said he does not expect the store to close during the remodeling but a grand re-opening will likely be held late this spring.