NORMANDY, MO (KMOX)– Wednesday marks the end of a century-old era in north St. Louis County,as Schulte Hardware and Supply closes its doors for good.
James Schulte’s great grandfather opened his first store at 19th and Benton in north St. Louis in 1905. After moving to north Union in the city Schulte’s grandfather opened the current location at Natural Bridge and Lucas and Hunt in 1926. On Wednesday, the long history, comes to an end. “It’s a hard decision to make, but financially it was an easy decision to make.”
Schulte tells KMOX he just couldn’t compete with the national chains and online sales. “As a smaller store, when you’re buying from hardware cooperatives you’re paying higher freight rates so your acquisition costs are a lot higher for inventory than some of the larger stores are. Then you can’t carry the broad areas of products that you’d like to carry.”
Schulte says he’s not bitter about the changing landscape, “It’s a trend. There are some hardware stores I know of that do some online business and maybe, that’s the way the smaller stores need to go about marketing their business is online.”
Another challenge for the store, Schulte says, is Normandy’s changing demographics. “The smaller stores that are surviving today are closer to a higher household income population and places where there’s a higher percentage of home owners versus renters. That’s probably one of the reasons this location has changed so much.”
Changes to Natural Bridge itself also cut into business. He says when it was reduced from four to two lanes a few years ago, it led to congestion that made it more difficult to access the store.
Schulte plans to retire after Wednesday. In the meantime, he’s looking to help his cashier’s find new jobs. He says they’ve been with him over 30 years.
He’ll also be talking with family members about what to do about some of the antique and historic items in the store. He says his brothers are trying to soak in all the history. “They’re all coming by and taking photographs and kind of, looking at the old place trying to refresh their memory of what it was like.”