by Michael Krapovicky | photography by Mark Turcotte
Sturdy Hardware is a business that is built on service to God and their customer base. The Sturtevant family welcome the residents of Maine and beyond to visit – and see first-hand why shopping at Sturdy Hardware provides benefits that large-chain businesses lack.
Jeff Sturtevant was a jack-of-all-tradesman throughout his adult life. While manager of Depot Square Hardware and Variety in Mechanic Falls, Jeff and his son Tyler began the discussion of owning their own hardware store someday. Tyler decided to declare as a business major at Castleton University, and upon graduating, he and his father set the wheels in motion.
“I came out of college and began working for the previous owner of this facility, then called Stevens Hardware,” says Tyler. “I was there for three years, and my dad came over soon after then.”
The Sabattus Road building was the third location for Stevens Hardware, built in 1967. The Sturtevants purchased the business in 2020 and renamed it Sturdy Hardware, taking Jeff’s lifelong nickname as its appellation. The Stevens family gave their blessing to the new ownership, gifting them with pictures of the store and a stool that existed in the original building.
“The grandchildren came in and told us stories, talked about the layout of the store,” says Jeff. “They told us, ‘we felt that you folks were much like us, and run the business in a similar way that our family did’.”
Their logo has a crucifix for the ‘T’ in “Sturdy”, displaying the Sturtevant’s commitment to their Christian faith.
Sturdy Hardware employs 10, all with years of experience in customer service.
“Traits we look for in a team member are hard workers – willing to look you in the eye and treat you with respect,” says Jeff. “People are going to keep coming back if they are treated well.”
Assistant manager Pete Dumond is a lifetime friend and an expert on workboots. Dumond had 13 years of customer service experience prior to being hired by the Sturtevants.
“We also have a 92-year-old employee, Ed Bullard, who works 3 days a week,” says Jeff. “If you met him, you wouldn’t think he was that old!”
Also unofficially employed as greeters are the Sturtevant dogs, Samson and Abby. The two canines freely wander the store and are a popular attraction to Sturdy Hardware.
Katie Sturtevant, office manager of Sturdy Hardware shares, “The first thing people will see as they enter the store will be a dog. People come in on their way to work just to say hi to them, and give them a treat.”
Local Versus Big Box
The team at Sturdy Hardware addresses concerns of people who are searching for the best value and convenience when shopping.
“In terms of pricing, I think there’s a myth that small businesses are more expensive than big-box stores – our products are very comparable, if not cheaper, in most cases,” says Katie. “We put a lot of time and effort into making sure pricing stays competitive.”
If a customer needs something currently not in stock, Sturdy Hardware can typically order it within a timely fashion. Their expertise and willingness to assist clients with whatever guidance they require is where they truly maintain superiority over online shopping.
“Everything we sell here I’ve had my hands on in one way or another,” affirms Jeff. “And we are avid hunters and fishermen.”
The direction the Sturtevants can offer a potential customer is one of their most viable assets.
“One thing we do is we try to give you the best advice we possibly can, so you are buying the right products,” Jeff shares. “We get questions on projects from people all the time, and so we try to take the experience we’ve had and the knowledge we’ve gained through not just doing it ourselves, but talking with the professionals.”
Sturdy Hardware’s staff frequently consult with professionals to provide the best information to their customers.
“We learn a lot from the folks we sell to – plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and such – so when someone comes in with a project, we can give the best advice possible,” says Jeff. “We want to be able to guide a customer to the right purchases the first time, so they aren’t buying things they don’t need.”
The Sturtevants are glad to impart the wisdom they have acquired through their experience with the welding, carpentry, construction, automotive, and the retail hardware industry.
“We often have people who shop at the big box stores ending up here because no one helped them, so we’d walk them through their project,” says Jeff. “Even if we don’t sell them anything, we’d gladly help because people remember that – for us, it’s not always about the sale, it’s about helping people do their projects the right way.”
When choosing where to shop, the folks working at Sturdy Hardware pledge to make local businesses a priority.
“Whenever we can support local, we do,” Jeff asserts. “If I know someone at a store, I’m going to go buy from them, because I know, trust, and care about them. I think it’s the same thing here—we want to create relationships, where people trust us.”
The Sturtevants have reaped benefits from their local-first agenda.
“We hear ‘we are trying you first’, on the daily – this is a very loyal community,” Katie states. “Coming from Mechanic Falls, we took over, changed the name, changed a lot about this store, yet the community has accepted us, often giving us the first opportunity for a sale.”
“We try to market in every way we can, but word-of-mouth is by far our best tool,” adds Tyler. “When we have helped someone, most times they recommended us to someone else.”
More than Hardware
In addition to electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and other sundries, the store carries firearms, hunting and fishing gear, pool chemicals and supplies, and offers rentals – from excavators and tractors, down to hand tools.
“We are a little more diverse than your typical hardware store,” explains Tyler. “We still get customers who have been in many times, not realizing the range of products we offer.”
More than simply a purveyor of varied and valuable products, Sturdy Hardware goes above and beyond for their clientele, by design.
“We’re not here to get rich, we are here to make a living – serving God and the community,” concludes Jeff. “We are going to make a small profit and weather the storms that can occur in the business world, looking to be here 20-30 years, passing the business along to our children.”
Sabattus | sturdyhardwareme.com