Tom and Bert Nemec grew up in the hardware business. Their father, Bob Nemec, opened West Trenton Hardware Store 50 years ago. In 1996 Tom and Bert bought their father’s business, which continues to flourish as a local family-run hardware store.

This summer the brothers decided to do something that sounded a little crazy to their friends — they opened a second neighborhood hardware store. On June 30 they opened the Montgomery True Value Hardware Store.

“I’ve been partners with my brother, Bert. Between the two of us we have five kids on the verge of college. It is too much for one store to sustain both families,” explains Tom. They searched for the right location for a couple of years before finding their new site. They are located next door to the Montgomery Shop Rite, on the corner of Routes 206 and 518.

“True Value has been very encouraging,” adds Tom. They are the only True Value locations in the area, and the last family-run hardware stores.

As Tom and Bert’s children come of age, the third generation of Nemecs is working in the family business, alongside their grandfather, “Bolt Aisle Bob,” as Tom affectionately refers to his father. “On any given day you might run into Bob, who is 84 years old and still comes in to help customers three to four days a week.”

On the weekend of October 3, Montgomery True Value Hardware Store had its official grand opening celebration. Said Tom: “It was great having him [my dad] there for the ribbon cutting with the mayor. Dad had a big smile on his face.”

That weekend they set up their dunking tank and raised more than $600 for the all-volunteer Montgomery EMS. “It worked out good.” Tom hopes to build a strong relationship with the community.

“It has been really good. What gives us an advantage over other new stores is that we’ve been doing this forever. We know product selection. We’ve hired a great staff and managers. We know the core hardware business,” continues Tom. Services offered in the Montgomery location include color matching paint, scissor and knife sharpening, rekeying, key cutting, glass cutting, window and screen repair, delivery, gift certificates, rentals, and special orders.

Adds Tom, “We thought it out really hard. We’ve brought in Benjamin Moore paints and Weber grills” to the Montgomery location. Their grills are assembled and delivered.

When asked how are they not only surviving with the big box hardware stores, but thriving, Tom answers, “I really feel there is a niche. We carry the right products. We have the right knowledge. We can exist with them. We definitely saw a dip in sales [at West Trenton Hardware] when the location on Olden Avenue opened.”

Tom and Bert studied the market and diversified their products. They sold products not available at Home Depot. Their variety of faucets (for example) is so wide that Home Depot sends business to their West Trenton location.

“When you have a company, you have to recreate yourself, see the needs, and reinvent yourself. We are always adapting and trying different things. We offer services you are not going to find” at other places.

Both locations have commercial sales and are state contract vendors. “We cater to state agencies including the state police, Department of Transportation, county and township offices. We deliver, do special orders, and a lot of things people don’t realize a little hardware store can do.”

They have adjusted their hours to best suit the needs of the community. They are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Tom says these hours help them catch the after-work crowd when they are next door at Shop Rite.

Tom and Bert Nemec each split their time between the two stores. One or the other is often available to share their expertise and answer questions for their customers.

Montgomery True Value Hardware Store, 1325 Route 206, Skillman, NJ 08558. 609/683-5100. See ad, page 24.

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