Dunsmuir Hardware

The traditional hardware store of Dunsmuir - California's historic railroad town. Founded by Dunsmuir's first mayor - Alexander Levy - in 1894 and continuing today as a full service TRUE VALUE hardware store. This blog is simply intended to be a running commentary on operating a century old small town hardware store. Also please check our our website at

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Location: Dunsmuir, California

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


So here we are - eighteen months after we listed the store for sale and - it's still for sale.  Going into this we knew that it wouldn't happen overnight.  Selling a business in a fragile small town economy and a shaky national economy is a challenge and we're challenging it.  We've had interested parties, "nibbles" as we call them and that's fine.  We know that a "bite" will start with a "nibble."  We've had inquiries from out of the area and locals as well and our broker tells us they fall into two categories - the ones who say "If I was only 20 years younger", and the ones who say "If I only had the money."  We have confidence in our broker - he has us all over the internet and in realtor oriented resources all over the area as well as advertising all over the area.  He even did a pretty neat video that can be accessed online.  Everybody we talk to says our price is reasonable and the store is desirable and the opportunities are great.  We're convinced that the buyer is out there - - - we just haven't connected yet.  In the meantime, we're anxious to get the store sold and retire while we still have our health and energy to do some things we've wanted to for a long time. 

Friday, May 10, 2013


Well, we've taken the plunge and have listed the store for sale.  This is a milestone in our lives that hasn't been easy to come to grips with.  We bought this business in 1975 as our escape from the city; a way to raise our kids in a small town environment, a way to get ourselves back to the small town environment that we were born and raised in, a way to have a slower, more rewarding, healthier lifestyle than we were experiencing in the city, and a way to be independent shapers of our own destiny.  It has done all of that. 

Now we're faced with the reality that we're getting tired.  Thirty-eight years is enough - even when it's something as good as what we've had.  We've had a wonderful life in a precious small town with good people all around us.  Pure water - clean air - slow pace of life - and a way to make a living that we enjoy each and every day.  How many people go to work each day dreading it.  How blessed we are to truly enjoy what we do.  But we're getting tired.

It's time to sell the store and step away from it.  Let somebody else live the dream that we've had while we live the dream of relaxing and enjoying what we've built. 

Signing our names on the papers to actually list the store for sale was an emotional moment.  We've taken the plunge.  Now we'll wait to see who will step up to carry on our store.  It's a classic store.  A small town hardware store dealing with real people and real situations.  We're part of the town's historic district and have savored the history of the town and the way our store is such an integral part of it.  And it will continue to be a part of it when new owners step up.  Our dream is that some young couple with school age kids - just like us 38 years ago - will take it over.  People with the motivation to be a part of the community, to preserve the store's history, and to savor this special place.  The mountains, the river, and water, the air, and this special place.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hardware store for sale.  Guess it’s time.

So here’s the deal.  My wife and I bought Dunsmuir Hardware in 1975.  It was an opportunity for us to get our kids (and ourselves too) out of the city and move toward a slower, more wholesome, healthier and more meaningful lifestyle.  And in thirty seven years it has been all that and more.  Now it’s time for us to realize that it has come to that point in our lives when we have to let go of it.  It isn’t easy. 

We love our old store.  It has made it possible for us to live a great life.  It hasn’t made us rich in a monetary sense but it has made us rich in life experience.  We live in a beautiful place – next to the beautiful upper Sacramento River in the Siskiyou range of the Cascade mountains.  Situated in a forested park-like setting at the base of Mount Shasta with four beautiful seasons each year.  Wonderful and friendly small-town people.  Clean air.  Pure water.  Peaceful lifestyle. 

Dunsmuir is a town of around 1500 people – plus or minus – with its own schools, library, parks, city government, and its historic business district – of which Dunsmuir Hardware is perhaps the most significant contributor.  The town is located just off Interstate 5 which connects to Redding, California (50 miles to the south) and Medford, Oregon (150 miles to the north), so we have access to city “culture” if we need it.  The somewhat bigger town of Mount Shasta City (which has a large modern medical facility) is just 8 miles north of us and the charming towns of McCloud and Weed are each about 15 miles away.

Our building – which dates from 1916 – sits in the middle of the Dunsmuir Historic Business District.  It has been re-wired and re-roofed and re-decorated inside and out within the recent past.  It is roughly 100ft deep and 50ft wide and has a basement under the back half which we rent out to a builder.  The floor is the original natural red fir that was most likely cut and milled locally back in 1916.  The 17ft high ceiling is embossed tin that was installed in 1995.  It is virtually the same as the original pattern that would have been popular in 1916.  Lighting is modern fluorescent in fixtures that were also installed in 1995 but which have an antique appearance as do the ceiling fans.  We installed a modern state of the art heating system three years ago that keeps our winter heating bill to a moderate level and we supplement that with the old wood stove that gives our store so much warmth on cold winter days.  The building is in great shape for a 96 year old structure. 

Our business?  You can probably see it best by just taking a look at our website – .  There you will find a pretty complete picture of our products and services, our history, and our way of doing business.  We have three employees – middle age guys who represent our store well.  It’s a friendly and relaxed environment and we’re on a first name basis with most of our customers.  They appreciate the time we’re willing to spend with them helping them to complete a project, fix something, select a gift for somebody, answer their questions, or discuss the weather.  Current economic conditions have had a minimal effect on our store.  While building is way down, home repair business is up.  If you can’t sell your home, you still need to maintain it.  Tourist business seems as strong as ever.   

We’re a True Value hardware store and are served well by True Value.   Roughly 80% of our inventory comes from True Value and the remainder is from other independent suppliers, particularly in the area of sporting goods and giftwares.  We receive weekly deliveries from True Value and our pricing is highly competitive.  Our point-of-sale computer system is tremendously valuable in controlling our inventory, ordering, pricing, and managing our inventory.  It also does our accounts receivable and provides management reports.  We are a license agent for the California Department of Fish and Game and we sell fishing and hunting licenses through a dedicated computer system.  We also accept electric power payments for Pacific Power and Light which brings a lot of traffic into our store as people come in to pay their bills. 

What do we want to sell?  The whole package.  What we can offer is a “turn-key” business opportunity.  A buyer can step into an established and well managed business and take off with it.  There are no doubt new ideas that new owners could bring and which could grow the business into new areas.  We want to sell the business with its established reputation and customer base, the building, all the fixtures and equipment (computers, pipe threading equipment, custom paint tinting, tools and supplies), and all of the antiques that are part of the image of the business.  Our antique collection is legendary and without exaggeration there are thousands of dollars worth of antique tools, hardware, housewares, documents, pictures, cans and bottles.  They belong in the store and will go with it.
We could go on and on telling about our business but this – and our website – covers the high points.   Please feel free to contact us if you have any interest or questions or know somebody who might like to consider the opportunity.  We have not listed the business with a realtor yet – just want to see if we can find a buyer ourselves first.  Our contact information is on our website.  Please take a look.  

Sunday, May 06, 2012

OK - so yes - it's better this year

We did whine a bit with the new Department of Fish and Game computerized licensing procedure a year ago but have to admit - now it's better.  When a customer comes in with a license issued on the system last year we simply scan the bar code and CLICK there he or she is on the screen with all the information shown and we just click a few commands to print their new license.  Nice!  And there is a tremendous improvement in the information available from scanning a drivers license.  I think there has been some increased communication between the Department of Motor Vehicles and Fish and Game.  Last year we could scan a license and sometimes it recognized the person and sometimes not.  When it was not then we had to manually input all the information - physical description, address, even phone number.  This year it almost always recognizes the customer and the few times when it doesn't then we key in their birthdate, last name and drivers license number and it pops up. So - yes - it's better and takes a lot less time.  We still grumble at the need for all the information for a one day fishing permit.  Can't understand the need for all the personal information for an out of state customer when they simply want to fish for an afternoon. Hunting licenses are also easier and as we get more and more familiar with it we can wade through the deer, bear and pig tags and zone hunts and party hunts ( that doesn't mean a party like with refreshments - it means when two or more hunters want to hunt together in a specific zone ) we can issue it all pretty efficiently.  Also Fish and Game seems to have backed off on their security procedures a bit.  A year ago we kept having to change passwords far too often which really slowed down the sale of licenses.  I guess they were concerned that terrorists would hack into our system and take control of folks' fishing licenses.  Now we seem to only change passwords once a month.  Bottom line - it's better.

Sunday, April 03, 2011


We've now been converted to a new automated fishing and hunting license system by the California Department of Fish and Game. We understand that the system was undergoing design and development for ten years and we wish the state had taken a little longer and perhaps made it more "user friendly." OK we'll admit that we are a bit old-fashioned and resistant to change but sometimes we feel a bit overwhelmed by the ways business is conducted today.

When we purchased the business in 1975 there was no computer. Our cash register was a big old crank thing that required a firm whack on the total bar to complete a transaction. The previous owners did have a phone system; a dial phone at the check-out counter and another in the office. Monthly statements were hand typed on an old (non-electric) typewriter which we still keep in the office but now as an antique. The bell that announces when a customer enters or leaves was a bell hanging from a wire that sort of went "clunk" when the door bumped it. Price stickers were hand-written - often on masking tape. Fishing and hunting licenses were also hand-written.

So - OK - we have to admit that some things are better today. The cash register is electronic and links to a computer system that updates inventory and sales records, posts to customer accounts, and produces all kinds of management reports. We have a telephone system with three cordless extensions and an answering system. We have a fax machine on its own dedicated line. Monthly statements are computer generated in a matter of minutes. The door bell announcer is an electronic unit that uses an invisible light beam to trigger a "ding" instead of a "clunk." We don't use price stickers much now that everything is bar coded and scanned at the check-out. And now fishing and hunting licenses are computer generated.

But it isn't all painless. We remember the time when we could call one of our suppliers, hear a familiar voice on the phone, exchange pleasantries, place the order and know that it was on its way in just a few minutes. Today to place an order with that same supplier we get on their website, access their catalog, try to remember our username and password, search for the items we want, finalize the order, send it to the "shopping cart," select how we want it shipped, and its on its way to us in about thirty minutes or so. We recently had a customer from the Philippines who wanted a one day fishing license. He didn't have a California drivers license and spoke very little English. It took us a half hour to sell him a license on our new system - would have taken less than two minutes with the old one.

Admitedly it would be next to impossible to conduct business today without computers. True Value Hardware requires that we place our orders and transact our business with them on a computer. The Department of Justice requires that we do firearms transaction on a dedicated computer. The IRS requires that we pay our taxes by computer - automatically deducting from our bank account - rather than by mailing a check. The California Board of Equalization requires that we file our sales tax return by computer. Now the Department of Fish and Game requires that we sell fishing and hunting licenses on a dedicated computer. Pacific Power wants us to accept PP&L payments on a dedicated computer but we are drawing the line there. We have enough computers.

We admit to buying into the computer world to a degree. We do have this blog and we have a modest website - . We do some product research on the internet and communicate some with email. But we don't have a cell phone or ipod, or ipad, or "smart phone" or blue teeth and don't want them. We're not on "facebook" and we don't text, skype, tweet, twitter or chirp - - - although we do burp now and then.

Monday, January 03, 2011


Here's a story that is worthy of being added to the list of all-time hardware store frustrations.
On New Year Eve a big-rig truck crashed on Interstate 5 passing through Dunsmuir. Reports say that the driver was going 60 to 65 miles per hour on an icy road while it was snowing. (Insane) As he crossed the bridge in the center of town known locally as the "800 foot bridge" - he lost it in a big way. The truck crashed into the guard rail and in true Hollywood fashion dangled off the bridge for a while until it finally crashed into the park below the bridge. Fortunately the driver only suffered a broken leg - could have been killed.
Now is when the humor enters the picture. The truck was fully loaded with super high quality triple layer quilted TOILET PAPER. A mountain of toilet paper spilled out the the truck to the park below and as word spread throughout the town folks started to arrive and cart the stuff away. After all, they couldn't just let it lay there and soak up the snow! Seems that there was so much of the valuable cargo just laying there that the town has been flooded with it. We're hearing stories of people with so much of it that they're giving it away to friends and neighbors and strangers. One of our residents told us of going to get in his car and found a case of high quality triple layer quilted toilet paper in the passenger seat.
Now here's the punch line. Guess what Dunsmuir Hardware is featuring in a "Bargain of the Month" sale for January. You guessed it. Look at the ad. TOILET PAPER.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

'bout black bears being bold

Interesting thing that seems to happen about this time of year. Customers repeatedly come into the store and relate stories of bears being a nuisance. It's easy to see around town on trash pick-up days - cans have been knocked open and trash scattered. Driving to work recently it was like driving through a war zone - had to zig-zag around cans on both sides of the street and trash spilled out into the street. Warm weather has our native black bears on the move - usually at night - and they're looking for easy pickings. By the way - from what we understand, all bears here are black bears although there is some variation in color and folks often see "cinnamon bears" - which are actually an off-color black bear. Customers are usually looking for a bear-proof garbage can or a way to make theirs bear-proof. Those heavy-duty cans issued by the City of Dunsmuir are very tough and can stand a lot of bear-abuse but the lids can be easily flipped open. The lids can be secured with heavy-duty bungee cords or chain or rope but - understandably - the folks who pick up your trash can't be bothered with having to stop at every can and undo the bear-proofing. Some folks have put a container of ammonia on top of the trash and then close the lid with the theory that the bear shoves his head into the can and gets a face-full of fumes that will discourage him from coming back. Unfortunately this doesn't work if he simply knocks the can over and then picks over the contents. Best solution is still what we've always been advised. Don't put smelly garbage in your can and set it out - it's an invitation to your neighborhood bear. We're told that bears are repeat offenders. Once they find a tasty trash can they'll return over and over to savor it. Many folks are beginning to avoid putting wet and smelly garbage in their can at all. Things like fish and chicken and other fragrant scraps can be put in plastic bags, sealed tight and kept in the garage or popped into the freezer until the morning of the trash pick-up. Trash pick-ups are early so that might mean you'll have to get up at the crack of dawn - or before - on those days - but its probably better than having to pick up garbage scattered all over your yard, the street and the neighbor's yard.

The picture above is one that we took just yards from our home in north Dunsmuir in the summer of 2008. It was taken in the middle of the night and we had to manipulate it a bit on the computer to bring out the image - played with contrast and color which gave it that red tint - intensified by the red clay of the ground where he (or she) was walking. But you can see that he's pretty intent on cruising the neighborhood - looking for a midnight snack. Customers have told us of sightings in virtually all parts of town - even right in the center and neighborhoods where you wouldn't expect to encounter them. They obviously cruise a lot of territory on their late night strolls.

Very very important also - be careful. Bears are wild creatures with big teeth and long claws and are not to be taken casually. Don't take any chances.