BRITT | Jon Swenson has had some good years in Britt.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I like the small town community,” he said.
This year, his business, Swenson’s Hardware, at 7 Main Avenue North in Britt celebrates its 40th anniversary as a one-stop shop for area residents looking for home improvement products and building materials.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I enjoy coming to work. I enjoy all the customers.”
Swenson purchased the store, formerly known as Kreitinger Hardware, from Vince Kreitinger in 1977 at 21 years old.
At the time, Swenson, who has lived in Britt since second grade, was working at Grifhorst Drugstore, where one of his responsibilities was mixing soft drinks, but he had long been interested in owning the hardware store across the street.
“I was always a tinkerer. I’d always take things apart,” he said. “If something was broke, I’d try to fix it. I figured I couldn’t break it any worse.”
Negotiations began after Marvin Betcher, a former employee at First State Bank, found out Swenson was interested in purchasing the store and told Kreitinger.
And, in between Christmas 1976 and New Year’s Day, Swenson and his father did inventory at the hardware store before he took official ownership on Jan. 1, 1977.
Now, 40 years later, the store is double the size and its still going strong.
“I don’t have any secrets,” he said. “I’m just trying to be out there and keep learning new things.”
Swenson said over the years, he’s made an effort to attend at least two hardware shows annually to remain up-to-date in the hardware industry.
And it’s changed a lot with the boom in technology and the transition from primarily livestock- and agriculture-related equipment to more residential retail, but one thing remains important: quality customer service.
“It’s critical,” he said.
So are good employees, and Swenson said he has “been fortunate to have enough good” ones to help him.
Currently, he employs five, including three high school students, he said.
And if the store didn’t keep him busy enough, Swenson also serves on the Britt Fire Department since 1978 and has been the chief for the past three years. He has filmed West Hancock High School varsity football games since 1974-1975 school year, and he sponsors events and activities throughout the year. Swenson’s even an honorary hobo named Handyman.
“I just always want to give back and keep involved in the community,” he said.
Although Swenson never envisioned owning a store for 40 years, he gives much of the credit for his success to his wife, Jane, who he calls the “love of his life,” and his children, Molly and Tyler, as well as the support of the business community and his loyal customers.
“I just want to say thank you to everybody,” he said.
As for how many years he’s got left?
“I’ve got a few more,” Swenson said with a smile.
Swenson’s Hardware is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and closed Sunday.