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Lamecker's General Store puts it together in Kerkhoven

Scott Lamecker opened Lamecker's General Store in Kerkhoven this week.

KERKHOVEN — Kerkhoven knows what its got, now that it’s back.

Scott Lamecker opened the doors of Lamecker’s General Store on Monday, and in so doing returned two basic retail services to the community of just over 700 people in Swift County.

Lamecker’s General Store offers hardware products for home and farm customers, and an inventory of basic groceries.

Well before he opened the doors, locals had been dropping in to see how things were going, and to offer encouragement. “The town has been 110 percent behind me,’’ said the new business owner.

The town has been without a hardware store since April of 2013, when second-generation owner Tom Schutt closed Schutt’s Hardware. The Schutt family had operated the store since March, 1960, according to records at the Swift County Historical Society.

The town suffered another blow last fall, when Dave’s Family Foods closed its doors.

And to add to the town’s losses last year, the owner of the Butcher Block meat shop died, and the business closed.

Lamecker had been driving truck, and said he was eager for the adventure of owning his own hardware store.

 Yet the numbers didn’t look good for operating a hardware store in the small town. Things changed when groceries were added to the mix.

“Financially it made sense,’’ said Lamecker. “Everything came together with it,’’

He put together a financing package involving the Financial Security Bank of Kerkhoven, Swift County Economic Development Agency, Upper Minnesota Regional Development Commission and Southwest Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

It allowed him to purchase the former Schutt Hardware building on U.S. Highway 12 and its remaining inventory. He set about transforming it with the goal of making it a brand new store. New and brighter, energy efficient lighting, new tile flooring, and an open, spacious lay-out provide a very modern look inside.

And, this new Hardware Hank store comes equipped with all the latest technology, from a computerized inventory system and soon, its own website.

Yet Lamecker believes the success of this business will be built on the old-fashioned attributes of small town retailing. The emphasis will be on providing the best in service, and adjusting inventory to meet what its rural customers want.

“It’s the convenience and the service that we are going to provide to the customers in this area,’’ he said.

He faces plenty of competition from both sides: Kerkhoven residents have had plenty of practice in the past year of traveling west to stores in Benson or east to Willmar. 

Lamecker likes to point out that “nobody goes to Willmar and back in an hour.’’ It may be only a 20-minute ride one way, but making a run to Willmar for groceries or a home project invariably means multiple stops and plenty of windshield time.

He believes local residents will happily embrace the opportunity to shop local once again.

He is a firm believer in local, and the store reflects it. The Benson Bakery and Stony Creek Dairy are among the suppliers in the grocery section.

 He believes many of his neighbors share his commitment to the community, and he knows them well. He’s a city council member and long-time member of the Kerkhoven Volunteer Fire Department, along with other, civic groups.

Lamecker grew up near Lake Lillian, graduated from the Atwater High School, and farmed with his father. He operated his own trucking business, worked for Cropmate Fertilizer and Chemical, Murdock, and drove truck for West Central Steel, Willmar. 

His wife, Teresa, and their children, Travis and Alexis, will help out in the store.

The store hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday – Friday, and 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335