Family business poised for growth, with third generation at the helm
By Paul Gubrud, Special Correspondent
The Strand Hardware store has been a landmark in downtown Pelican Rapids since the early 1950s.
In those days, it was just one of five hardware stores serving the community. The competition must have been fierce.
One of those five hardware stores was the Coast-to-Coast store.
In 1953, Truman and Phyllis Strand bought it and moved their young family to Pelican Rapids, living upstairs in the store. Over the years, four of the stores fell by the wayside. Only one exists today: Strand Ace Hardware.
Truman learned to be a true “hardware man” working as a teenager at the Coast-to-Coast store in his hometown of Glenwood, MN.
After serving the country during WWII in the Army Air Corps, he wanted to get back into the hardware business with a store of his own. Truman managed the Coast-to-Coast store in Centerville, SD, just after the war, but he longed to get back to the lakes country of Minnesota.
Coast-to-Coast helped him find a store for sale in Pelican Rapids that he purchased in 1953.
The rest is history.
The post-WWII economic boom was felt by everyone. American industry was now producing consumer goods that had not been available since before the war, plus people had more money to spend.
It affected every business in Pelican Rapids, and the community prospered, including Strand’s Coast-to-Coast Hardware.
A store with everything:
Home, Farm, Car
Truman and Phyllis worked hard and put in long hours. Their business thrived. “Everything for the Farm, Home, and Car” became their slogan. Within a few years, they were able to buy the adjacent building, expanding into appliances and televisions which were in high demand.
When Truman wasn’t working at the hardware store, he was busy donating his time to civic organizations and promoting Pelican Rapids. We can still see his fingerprints throughout the community today. Pelican Pete would likely not have come into existence without him promoting it.
As a charter member of Rotary, he was instrumental in building the iconic suspension bridge connecting our two city parks.
“He wanted a shortcut to walk home for lunch every day,” Dave Strand said with a chuckle.
And speaking of parks, Truman was a key figure in the establishment of Maplewood State Park in the early 1960s.
Truman Strand was post-War community-builder
As a young businessman in the post-war years, Truman was one of several local business owners, many of them also World War II veterans with an enterprising “can-do” spirit. Pelican Rapids was fortunate to have many such like-minded people.
“Those guys coming out of the service after World War II lived and breathed optimism,” Dave told me in a recent conversation. “They understood organization and the need to work together as a community. He loved Pelican…he was always a cheerleader for Pelican Rapids.”
“Mr. Pelican Rapids” became one of Truman’s nicknames.
Downtown fire was turning point for Strand, community
Fortunes turned for Truman and Phyllis the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1981. It was a near tragedy for the Strands. That night a catastrophic fire started in the Cer’s Café building next door. The fire destroyed the café as well as the building next to it, while also severely damaging Strand’s appliance annex. Fortunately, the rest of the store survived with minor smoke damage, and they recovered quickly. They were back in business for the Christmas shopping season.
Truman managed to turn the misfortune of the fire into an opportunity to grow the hardware store. The loss of the three buildings created a gaping hole in the middle of downtown. Truman knew it had to be rebuilt for the sake of the community, and he decided that he was going to do it.
He bought the destroyed properties and started construction of a new building in 1982. According to Dave Strand, his father was notorious for “over-building,” and he wanted it to be fireproof, so it was built with stressed concrete walls and roof. In the spring of 1983, Strand Ace Hardware held its grand opening of the new store.
It is the Strand Ace Hardware store that has been an anchor business on Main Street ever since.
Truman’s son Dave joined the business in the late 1970s and became the new “helpful hardware man.” After they moved into the new building, Truman started to think of retirement. In 1985 Truman claimed he was retiring, but he was frequently at the store “just in case they needed help.” He missed interacting with customers.
Dave continued to grow the business for the next 32 years, in spite of increasing competition from the big box stores and Internet shopping.
Generation three enters in 2017
The third generation took over the business in 2017 when Dave’s son, Matt, took the helm, but like Truman, Dave is frequently at the store to “lend a hand” when needed.
Matt grew up in the hardware business, often coming to work with his dad and mom as a youngster. As he got older, he would be in the store after school, waiting on customers and learning to be another “helpful hardware man.”
Matt was “always in the middle of everything,” his father Dave said, referring to his son running around the store as a child.
Shortly after Matt took over the store, he created the famous “Pelican Rapids Chick Controversy” by offering chicks for sale, not knowing that it violated a city ordinance banning poultry and farm animals within the city limits. The city was obligated to tell him to cease and desist.
When people heard about it, the story went viral on social media, regional print media, and television, with the mayor and city council taking the brunt of the criticism. Fortunately, everyone came to an agreement with a handshake and a smile.
It was a publicity goldmine for Matt and the hardware store, and it got more people to walk through the front door if for nothing other than to look at the little chicks for sale.
A new era of expansion for downtown anchor business
Matt and his wife, Liz, had new ideas to expand the business this year. They purchased the vacant store next door, creating the largest retail business in town. The additional floor space has allowed them to expand their “Home Center” and “Style Lust” clothing line, as well as to create floor space for Stihl Chainsaws and Traeger Grills.
This past summer, they made another change by returning to the Ace Hardware franchise that we have known for so many years. With the change came a makeover of the store, which now includes over 80,000 items.
The business has grown in a full circle since Truman and Phyllis bought the hardware store in 1953. The building that Matt and Liz have expanded the store into is what was Truman Strand’s original Coast-to-Coast store.
Truman would be proud.