BY KATHY KANE
When you own a business on an island, you must have the support of the island residents. Grosse Ile Hardware has been doing just that since 1954, the last 15 years under the ownership of Ray and Laura Biddle.
On Macomb Street, there are only a few true family businesses left. One of those happens to be the hardware store, which has been a family business since its founding. Over the years three families have owned the store, lived on the island and raised their families on the island. The current store has undergone many changes over the years; some parts of it were a doctor’s office, veterinary office and lately a portion of it is a free lending library for the casual reader.
“At this hometown store, our customers often tell us our pricing is competitive with the big box stores,” Ray Biddle said. “Some of ours is slightly higher and some are slightly lower; their comment is our service and product knowledge far exceeds the other box stores so there is no reason to leave the island.”
Biddle also points out the true specialty product brands that are not easily found off the island, such as special edition Weber grills, Benjamin Moore paints, a full line of Yeti coolers and drinkware, Bradford-White water heaters, and a full line of Toro lawn equipment from consumer level to contractor grade.
“We have definitely changed through the years to offer what our customers are requesting,” Biddle said.
That is prevalent from the product lines referenced above and through the recent addition of firearm sales, Grosse Ile Spirit wear apparel and the substantial addition of boating supplies.
“Special orders have always been a specialty the hardware store is known for, and most of our customers are happy to wait the few days for the product to arrive for their pick up,” he said.
In fact, Grosse Ile Hardware has kept up with technology with its recent improvement on its website. There are more than 70,000 items that can be purchased directly online and delivered to the store for pick up.
This includes hardware store items from Do It Best, Toro branded Power Equipment, Benjamin Moore paint, Weber grills and more than 3,500 boating supplies. The hardware store’s Facebook page has been a little late in its launch, but it is increasing its following every week.
“Within our family, Laura is the CFO, she handles balancing the debt with the income. Eric has joined us after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and is working alongside me in addressing all store operational aspects of sales, service and repair,” said Biddle. “Eric brought a new family member on-board recently — a puppy named Gunner, part German Shepard and part Husky. He has been a hit with customers and enjoys playing a game of tug-o-war with (them).
“Our challenges in a small community is the ‘circle of life,’ where the passing of one generation of customers isn’t always replaced by the next generation. There is a declining shift in the number of do-it-yourself customers to ones wanting it done for them,” Biddle said. “This cycle ebbs from side to side, generation to generation. The challenge is to build trust with our customers in the advice that we provide to them so they achieve the satisfaction they need, whether it is on a plumbing project, painting project or in the selection for the right tool for the job.”
The Biddles invite area residents to check out the new website gihardware.net, and while you are there, enter the Weber grill contest and make sure to like the hardware store on Facebook.
They also welcome residents to stop in and say hello, enjoy a fresh bag of popcorn from the old-fashioned popcorn machine located right by the lawnmower displays — and help let the world know that “good old-fashioned customer service” is alive and well at Grosse Ile Hardware.