Hardware stores are open throughout the Methow Valley because they qualify as “essential businesses” under Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order– and they’re busy.
Employees and owners are focused on constantly sanitizing as their business has, if anything, picked up in the past few weeks.
“My main concern is keeping my employees safe,” said Mason Brandt, manager at Winthrop Ace Hardware. “We’re cleaning and bleaching between every customer, and asking people to keep the 6-foot distance. You want to keep everybody safe, employees, and customers.”
Sanitizers have continued to be in high demand and short supply. Social distancing has been one of the largest hurdles for valley hardware stores.
“It’s tough to tell people to be home. I understand why people are coming in,” said Brandt. “For the most part, it’s been everything from getting the yard ready, to painting, plumbing, and electrical. Fixing things that have been broken in the house. Maybe something got put off until they had time to deal with it, and now they have time.”
Winthrop Ace Hardware has also seen a spike in sales of house paint and gardening supplies. “We’ve been real busy with seeds, and potting soils. I think more people are more interested in planting a garden this year they have than in the past,” said Brandt.
Brandt said his twice-weekly re-stock shipments have been keeping up with demands. “We’ve been having the police department asking for gloves,” he said. “They’re having a hard time getting gloves for themselves.” Brandt put in an order for gloves on his most recent re-stock list. “It’s just one of those things, if we can get them in for them we’re going to,” he said.
The Valley Hardware Do It Center in Twisp has been staying busy as well. “Now that there’s been this much time, [customers] are definitely getting into their home projects,” said co-owner Lauri Losinski. “It’s spring, too. So people are doing more things outside.”
Losinski has also seen an uptick in gardening supply purchases. “Families, including the kids, are getting involved in family gardening projects. It helps the families get together and do something,” said Losinski.
While Valley Hardware Do It Center is staying busy now, Losinski is a little worried about how business will fare during the summer. “People are already getting their summer projects done in the spring. I’m not sure how the summer months will go, it may slow down for us,” said Losinski.
Hunting and fishing licenses have not been selling like they usually do this time of year. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has put a ban on fishing and suspended turkey hunting season (which was scheduled to open on April 15) in accordance with the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
“Nobody has come into to buy a turkey hunting license,” said Losinski. “We’ve seen a few people trickling in to get their fishing license. Usually, by now a lot of people have already gotten their fishing license.” As far as keeping products stoked, masks have been in short supply, as the store has been sold out of them for the past two months.
Valley Hardware Do It Center has put its typical summer seasonal hiring on hold. “We normally hire two high school students for the summer, and start training in April and May,” said Losinski. “Right now having a youth come into the store while the virus is going on… I’d hate to see anything happen to them. That’s why my husband [co-owner John Losinski] and I are down here more.”
Larry Walsh, the owner of Methow Valley Lumber, is looking for more staff. “All the people that are home have got projects, and they want to get them done while they have the time off,” said Walsh.
He’s offering curbside pick-up service for customers, who can call in and place orders over the phone. The new system is in place to keep his employees and customers protected; it also makes for a bit of a longer process for each order.
“Everything is called in; we gather it up and set it out for them. For smaller orders, we have a station where we set the order on a cart and they can just come by and pick it up,” Walsh said “For larger orders, if they need a hand, we’ll send someone over to help load it on the rig. We’re doing our best to keep up with the people. Every call is different. Every time the phone rings someone has to go pick that order.”
Sales to contractors have been down at Methow Valley Lumber, since contractor work has been put on hold under the governor’s order. But according to Walsh, “The do-it-yourselfers and homeowners” have been making up for the losses.
“People have been appreciative that we are staying open so they can get their materials and get their projects done while they have the time,” said Walsh.
What kind of projects are people working on? “There are lots of chicken coops,” said Walsh. “There are some extensive chicken coops being built out there; it will probably take them quite a few years to recoup the money on those eggs.”
“It will be interesting to see where things go from here,” said Walsh. As for now, “We’re just trying to protect our employees and customers as best we can. We’re grateful we’re still open.”