OSAGE | On Saturday, Nov. 25, Home Town Connections owners, Becky and Mike Mauer, sponsored an open house to celebrate their 30 years as a franchise with Radio Shack.
Becky, whose parents were Ray and Wanda Duren, said the business has been in her family for 61 years. Osage residents also may know the business as the former Radio Shack Store and Davis Paint Store.
Originally, her parents purchased the business from Dick Knudslien in 1956. “It was called Davis Paint when it was purchased,” Mauer said. “Davis Paint was one of the largest paint manufactures in the Midwest and was located in Kansas City, Missouri. Not many people knew it, but the company made paint for several other well-known brands.”
Mauer said she used to spend a lot of time at the store after school when she and her siblings were younger.
“I would either watch a little black and white TV or we would go upstairs and sew, because dad had sewing machines upstairs,” Mauer said, who said her dad had a great entrepreneurial spirit.
Along with selling paint, her parents also sold wallpaper, draperies, curtain rods, sewing machines and later her Ray took on a dealership for Dixon riding lawn mowers. He also repaired sewing machines and the Dixon mowers.
“When Dixons first came out, dad was the top salesman in Mitchell County and won an award,” Mauer said.
Recalling her parents’ early days in business, Mauer said, “When they first started the business, the paint came in on rail cars from Kansas City, which took about a week. Then they had to hire a freight truck to get the paint from the depot to the store.”
Later, Ray created Duren Manufacturing, which produced personalized paint paddles (paint sticks) for customers throughout the United States. Besides manufacturing the paint sticks, the company also customized each store’s sticks, by printing the store’s name and location on the handles. The paint sticks were bundled into 500 sticks and were shipped nationwide.
“My brother, Dan, would help dad saw the lumber and manufacture the sticks. My sister, Cindy, ran a small press that would print each store’s information on the wooden sticks. My sister, Kathy, would type up the mailing labels. I would make and tape up the shipping boxes and mom took care of the orders,” Mauer said. “It was kind of a family business, and we came here after school to help. I was only four or five years old when I first started helping.”
In 1977, tragedy struck the Duren household.
“I was 10 years old when mom died from a heart condition. There were more things to do around our home, like cleaning house, washing clothes and cooking,” Mauer said.
Ray continued in the business, and in 1987, he purchased a Radio Shack franchise.
While her dad ran the business, Becky headed off to college to become a dental assistant, graduating in 1986. In 1987, she became a dental assistant in Rochester, but later recognized her dad needed some help with the business, so she came home to help.
“I enjoyed the electronics and other aspects of the business, so I decided to stay,” Mauer said. “In 1990, I bought the business from dad. At that time, dad was working on the Radio Shack side of the business and worked on lawn mowers and I took care of the ordering and others things.”
Ray continued helping in the store. In 2011, he passed away.
“Mike and I got married in 1990. Mike always worked outside the business, but we would go out and install satellite dishes after work. In 2006, he came full time into the business,” Mauer said. “In 1992, we added cell phone sales and services. We were the first business in this area to offer cell phones. I can recall programming the first phones where you had to enter 20 lines of digital codes.”
The firm was cited by Radio Shack Corporation for the Circle of Excellence Award in 1998 and the Mauers won a trip to Australia. The award was based on the amount of merchandise a firm would purchase over a four-month period. Since that time, the business has received several other awards from Radio Shack.
“In 2005, we added a large line of office supplies,” Mauer said. “Today, we handle home electronics and accessories, office supplies, cameras and camera cards, antennas, flash drives, head phones, yarn, small TVs and we can special order large TVs. We really work at providing items you can’t find in any other store in Osage.”
During the open house, Judy Voaklander recalled her experiences at the store, “I bought a sewing machine in here nearly 50 years ago, when the sewing machines were upstairs. I paid a $100 for it and it was in a cabinet. I still have it, and I have never had it repaired.”
“Dad always said, ‘You orient yourself to a situation, adapt to your surroundings and overcome your enemy.’ You can put that advice to work in every aspect of your life. We use it because we are constantly adapting to the local retail environment,” Mauer said. “It is because of our customers that we have made it this many years.”