Ackerman Supply has been in business for 58 years and here is our story!
In 1949, Richard (Dick) was a partner in the milking business with Ernest Deschner. After several years of working with Ernie, he bought some cows and went into business for himself south of town. Dick was ahead of his time. He had the first walk through milk parlor in Mitchell County as well as the first automatic, heated water for his cows. On those frigid Kansas winter mornings when Dick took his milk to the Beloit Dairy, Cliff McDill would ask him if his production was way down like the rest of the dairy farmers. Dick would say, “Only a few gallons.” His production was off only a little because his Holsteins always had access to warm water 24 hours a day. As times changed and milk cans were changing to bulk tanks, Dick knew he did not have enough land to support 50 plus cows. So in 1962, he changed with the times and bought Broberg Implement on West Court Street. He continued milking for nine more months and was able to run the hardware store with the help of his wife, Gloria. When he went to milk, she managed the store and watch their three small children. Talk about stressful! Especially in those days, every single sale was important and not to mention the store wasn’t as organized as it is today. Some merchandise had prices penciled on the package, but a lot of merchandise had Dick’s coded cost written on it or nothing at all. But she managed in the end. Gloria supported her family immensely by growing and canning produce from her garden, organizing all home and school activities, and working without pay to make the business successful. She learned to do a lot without a very little. Once the dairy farm was sold, they moved to town and she worked at Dr. Chapman’s Vet Clinic.
The Broberg building (then Ackerman’s downtown location) was not exactly set up for a hardware store to say the least. Lots of improvements were going to be needed to make it in the long run. For the first few years, there were old barn doors on the front of the building and single light bulbs hung from the ceilings… that was only turned on as needed of course. Dick did install an overhead heater before taking over as Broberg still heated the building with a 55-gallon drum. Some days at the store were pretty slow. Dick recalls one day when his sales for the day only totaled .25 cents from the sale of a few bolts. But he was determined and continued to increase his inventory and sales, and after two years he was able to put a new front on his building. It was then that the Chamber of Commerce finally came to welcome him downtown and asked him to join. When he asked them where they were two years ago, they made the comment that they did not think a dairy farmer would be successful in running a hardware store so they did not come. You can imagine how that went over! Ackerman Supply did not join the Chamber until the middle of the 1980’s (some 20 years later). Since then, the Chamber has been helpful especially when Ackerman’s started the first rental store and people would call the chamber office to find the “only” rental store in town.
Dick, Bennett, and HJ pouring concrete
There have been many key personnel who have worked for Dick over the years. Bob Colby worked for 20 plus years and was Dick’s right hand man. Before Dick was able to afford a forklift to unload freight, everything was unloaded by hand. One year while still at the Court Street location, Dick sold seven truckloads of posts and barbed wire and a single load of post and wire can weigh over 40,000 lbs.! Other long-time employees from the original location included: Arlis White, Jr. Hansen, Francis White, and Marsha Halpin (Dick’s oldest daughter). H.J. (Dick’s son) started in 1984 after graduating from K-State and continues to successfully run the store with his wife Kristi, who joined in 2010 after years of teaching. Tristen Long (HJ’s nephew) came in 2017 to begin his apprenticeship with H.J. in hope that one day the store will be passed down through the family onto him. Shelby Ackerman (H.J.’s daughter) works remotely from Australia managing the store’s accounts payable, payroll, and social media accounts. Other key employees that worked 10 or more years at the Beloit location included Brenda Hollaway, Audrey Budke, Leah Ingram, Sandy Stovall, Wyatt Ackerman (H.J.’s son).
Kristi and HJ next to their Hubcap-themed Christmas tree
In 1973, Dick purchased a piece of ground on Highway 24 (where our building resides today!) from Beloit Industrial Development with the help of Floyd Lampert of the First National Bank. There he had Treb Construction put up a 16,000-foot building. He figured he would never make it at the Court Street location because he had run out of room inside and farmers had trouble finding parking with their pickups and trailers. As time got near for him to move, Dick said he began to have nightmares about having this big building to fill. Visions of merchandise from the old store just barely filling the perimeter leaving the center of the new store empty haunted him. However by the grace of God and a few years later, Dick needed to expand again and built two more buildings for storage.
Business continued to grow and the Osborne store was opened in January 1983. Other key employees who worked at our Osborne were Adelia Greive, Lois Mayers, and Steve Long (Dick’s son-in-law). Tristen and Kellen Long (Steve’s son’s) also spent many years working at the Osborne store. Dick rented a store in downtown Osborne, but outgrew that location quickly. Several years later, he built a new store north of town on Highway 24 across from More Chevrolet where the business resides today. Again, he needed a location which farmers could access easily with trailers and trucks. This building housed also housed the ASCS office for Osborne which is now called Farm Service Agency.
Dick and H.J. also had a store in Concordia, Kansas which was open from November of 1991 to September of 1994. It was successful but stretched Dick and H.J. to the point where some weeks they worked 80 hours. At that point, H.J. decided family was more important than a chain of stores. The local lumber yard in Concordia purchased the inventory and building that left the Ackerman’s back to two stores. H.J. would rather have two exceptional and well stocked stores than a bunch of mediocre ones.
Ackerman’s has sold countless different products over the years. To name a few:
pontoon boats, campers, sporting goods, fishing supplies, guns, televisions, stereos, fabric and patterns, auto and tractor parts which included mufflers, alternators, generators, ignition and IES brake parts. At present, Ackerman’s carries merchandise you’d expect a hardware store to carry like tools, plumbing, electrical and paint, but what you don’t expect to see is men, women and children clothing and boots, farm toys, sporting goods, housewares, farm supply, feed, pet supplies, and rental equipment. To expand from strictly farm supply to other product departments arose when Dick joined Cotter and Co. in 1968, which flew the “True Value” banner. Before that, he relied on traveling salesmen and small regional suppliers like Lee Hardware, Blish-Mize, Wyeth, Dutton Lainsen, Stow Hardware or Townly Hardware. Nowadays more than half the merchandise found in Ackerman’s is still ordered by H.J. directly from manufactures to get the best possible cost on products.
In December of 2014, Dick went to be with his Lord and Savior after a short battle with cancer. There are many things that are missed about what Dick said and did, but one saying that still can be heard amongst his older employees is, “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and my way…do it my way”. He was the first to admit that he was not a people person. Saying what he thought tended to offend some, but Dick was always fair and honest, and built his business on a foundation of faith in God. Before Dick died he was awarded the Estwing Gold Hammer Award. The award was initiated over 70 years ago by Ernest Estwing of Estwing Manufacturing Company as means of recognizing individuals who have been involved in the hardware industry for 50 years. It is the most prestigious award of its type.
Come By And See Us Today!
When you go into the Beloit store today you will see all kinds of antique décor. H.J. has collected unique farm tools and signs over the years in which he displays around the store. Another cool distinction is a small, walk through museum full of old farm equipment located on the grounds of the Beloit store.
H.J. and Kristi continue to work together running the store using the same principals as Dick used when the store began. They put God first in their lives and leave the difficult decisions for him to worry about. So please stop by and see what service, selection and savings Ackerman’s Supply has to offer!