- FULLER AND SONS: Hardware winner.
Though the big box stores seem to stand at the top of the food chain when it comes to hardware, don’t let them hear you say that at Fuller and Sons. With 60,000 feet of retail space in five (and soon to be six) stores, and the friendly-to-a-fault service that has sent them to the top of our ‘Best Of’ vote in the nuts-n’-bolts category for the second year in a row, they’re not playing the role of “little guy” to anybody.
A third-generation hardware man, Bobby Fuller now heads the store started by his grandfather in 1921 as Fuller Feed and Supply, at the corner of 28th Street and Arch.
“It was more of a farm supply store,” Bobby said. “That was the boonies in those days, on the way out to Saline County.”
Bobby took over in 1985, and his boys J.R. and Jeff Fuller hired on a few years back, putting the “sons” in Fuller and Sons. Jeff said that when the national chains came on strong, they decided to go head-to-head with them, matching any price they could offer. It was proof that a local could compete.
“That put us out there as saying, Look, you don’t have to make that choice between service and price,” Jeff said. “You can come in here and we can help you from the moment you walk in the door and you don’t have to be afraid that you’re going to pay more. That kind of changed people’s opinions of what a small hardware store can do.”
J.R. is the manager of Fuller’s flagship store at 7311 Baseline Road. He said their commitment to customer service has helped them get ahead; a quality that has fourth and fifth-generation customers shopping from some of the same shelves their parents and grandparents did.
“That’s the absolute, main thing we’ve got going for us,” J.R. said. “You come in the store, and we’re going to spend the same time with you whether you’re going to buy a lawnmower or a single nut for something you’re trying to fix. You’re still a customer in our eyes. You still need the help.”
That dedication has made the phrase “What are you trying to do?” sort of an unofficial motto at Fuller and Sons, Bobby said. He and his sons say it’s a line that has been met with some rather strange requests over the years, resulting in quite a few “Rube Goldberg” contraptions for those trying to get creative with their hardware.
Oh, and — for a customer who shall remain nameless — at least one whiskey still.
“He brought us a bottle when he finished it,” Bobby said, laughing. “Then again, you know what? Let’s not put that in there.”