By GARY POPP
The community’s support of Heuser Hardware in downtown Jeffersonville was so strong during its 90th anniversary celebration Saturday, area residents spilled out the business’ front and back doors.
The festive three-hour event included raffles, live music, camaraderie and a lot of food.
“We did 17 pounds of Boston butt, 60 hamburgers and 200 hotdogs, and it went fast,” said Mike Reynolds, who manned the grill set up near the sidewalk in front of the hardware store along Spring Street.
Reynolds, a 26-year employee with the Jeffersonville Parks and Recreation Department, estimated 500 people attended the anniversary, which took place between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
He said he was up until about 1:30 a.m. the night before, smoking the pork to perfection at his home before the big event.
Reynolds volunteered to cook some of the food because he wanted to support his friends and the business’ co-owners Larry Rogers, Tom Densford and Bill Densford.
“I think a lot of the guys that work down here. I always have,” Reynolds said. “I went to school with Bill and Tom and we have always had a good relationship, and that is something I hope continues throughout the years.”
Reynolds said Heuser Hardware reminds him of the television show “Cheers.”
“These guys don’t know a stranger,” he said. “Anyone that comes in, they treat you like they have known you for years.”
While the big-box hardware stores along Veterans Parkway may offer a wider selection, Reynolds said the customer service at the mom-and-pop shop is far superior.
“At the big stores, you get sent down some aisle, and what you are looking for may not even be there,” he said. “Here, they wait on you hand-and-foot. If you need to buy one screw, you can buy one screw. At your big box stores you have to buy a package of them.”
He said it is that down-home service and the store’s nostalgia that keeps people coming into the business day after day.
Bill Densford took a break from the action Saturday to say the community support “is just awesome.”
He attributes the business’ long-term success to customer service and a bond with community members.
“We know so many people, and it’s family oriented,” Densford said. “The Densfords, the Rogers, the Lovans — we are all just downtown people.”
He said the staff knew about 90 percent of the large crowd that attended the anniversary.
“We have a lot of repeat customers, which is awesome,” Densford said.
While the business supports itself on sales, anyone familiar with Heuser Hardware knows that it is also place where people meet for easy conversation.
“It is just a hub. We get a lot of information here. A lot of stuff gets dropped here, as far as politics, sports and fishing,” Densford said, adding with a laugh, “A lot of lies get told here.”
Densford said the customer base isn’t limited to only downtown Jeffersonville residents, as people from Clarksville and New Albany often come to the business for their home-improvement needs and, sometimes, just to socialize.
“It just makes you feel good that a little company like this in downtown can still hold on,” Densford said.
Sheryl Mohr, who grew up along Court Avenue and attended Chestnut Street School, came from southern Louisville to the anniversary to support her old friend Larry Rogers.
“I came not just to see everything in the celebration, but definitely to see my old neighbor and childhood [friend] Larry Rogers,” Mohr said. “I wouldn’t miss seeing him for nothing.”
Mohr said it was her pleasure to reconnect with Rogers and meet his wife and children.
In the spirt of Heuser Hardware’s unique community atmosphere, Mohr said after reminiscing with Rogers the two decided to plan a neighborhood reunion.
She said her visit to the hardware store reminded her of the “good, clean fun” kids used to have.
Mohr said for her that meant attaching Donald Duck juice cans on the back of homemade push carts that neighborhood kids would zip up and down the streets of downtown Jeffersonville.
“That is just how we played, and we played a lot,” Mohr said.
She said so many people came to the anniversary because when you come into Heuser Hardware, you get treated like family.
“This is so neat to be able to come in here, especially [as] a woman, and have people tell you exactly what you need,” she said.
While Mohr came to the anniversary to rekindle an old friendship, Dave Coomer, an owner of Ann’s By The River restaurant, walked out the back door with a recent purchase.
“At the restaurant we had electric, plumbing and lighting problems today, so I came to get some plumbing parts,” Coomer said.
He said he gives Heuser Hardware as much business as possible because “it’s local, they’re good people and I hate going into Home Depot or any of those big places.”
Coomer can relate to having a long-standing business in downtown Jeffersonville, as his restaurant is now in it’s 24th year, but said it is just amazing that Heuser Hardware is celebrating 90 years of business.