Nailed a niche

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Kirk Hardware’s history of serving residents dates back to 1889

It was a typical Saturday afternoon at Kirk Hardware, Inc. in downtown Noblesville. A customer walks in and owner Bill Prater greets him with a “What can we do you for?”

“Do you have – of all places in the world you gotta have it – a blow off plug for pressure cooker?,” Noblesville resident Ken O’Dell said.

“What mount?” Prater asks. “Give me a make and a model and we can go from there.”

In a city full of large chain home improvement store, Kirk Hardware separates itself by offering hard to find services and items.

“We repair darn near anything. We cut glass for tempered or double-paned windows, screen and window repair, drop-off services for tool sharpening and repair old oil lamps,” Prater said. “You don’t have to buy a whole pack. If you need just one bolt or nut, we’ll sell you one bolt or nut.

“We get calls from Home Depot, Lowe’s and Fishers Do-It Center, ‘Hey, can you fix it for them we don’t do it.’ I say, ‘Yes, bring it in,’” Prater continued. “When someone calls for a thermal window to be fixed they call me.”

Local competition is nothing new to the store. During the 1970s, downtown Noblesville had a JC Penny at Matteos Ristorante Italiano, Sears Roebuck next door to Kirk and Montgomery Ward where Community Bank is located.

“The rest of them have gone, but we’re still here,” Bill said.

“I’ve been a general contractor since 1983 and I send everybody here,” O’Dell said. “Anything hard to find, usually you can find it here. He probably knows as well as anybody it’s hard to compete with the big box places but a lot of the hard to find stuff and home items you can find here. Any kind of little hardware stuff I come here.”

O’Dell said he grew up on a farm in Noblesville.

“I’ve been coming here ever since I was a little kid when I used to go get beans from the old mill,” he said. “I remember always coming in here for as a kid was a new stove mica for the front of our fireplace.”

“We’ve still got some,” Prater said before reaching behind the counter and opening a box. “There’s a couple pieces left in there, not many.”

The building that houses Kirk Hardware was built in 1889 – years before President’s Theodore Roosevelt and William McKinley stopped in Noblesville to give speeches. The location was previously Griffin Brothers, Sharpe Hardware and S.E. Hardy & Co. before being named Kirk Hardware in the early 1950s.

“It started as a hardware, dry goods and horse and buggy repair,” Bill said. “We don’t have any lumber, but it’s hardware and some household stuff.”

Prater and his wife, Carrie, bought the store on March 26, 2002 and decided to keep the name.

“Everybody knows it as Kirk’s,” Bill said. “We’re trying to remain the same or close to it.”

When Bill returned home in 1971 after serving in the U.S. Army, he started bowling with Dave Kingsolver, who hired him after Prater left Delco. Bill has been at Kirk for more than 30 years and purchased the store from the Kingsolvers.

“If I can’t get it or tell you where to call, there’s a problem,” he said.

Prater uses his years of experience to recreate products that are no longer sold including switch locks from scrap pieces of plexiglass and mailbox pull levers. He also offers handmade birdfeeders.

“I wanted something to keep me busy,” Prater said. “I build them from scrap wood, different colors and types.”

Prater’s experience also benefits the “weekend warrior” whose spouse or girlfriend may come to the store for parts or tools.

“They’ll come in and say, ‘I need a thingamajig for the whatchamacallit.’ I’ll say, ‘What are we doing?,” Bill said. “As long as I know what you’re doing, I can probably figure out a way to make it work … I’m just riding the train, you’re the engineer.”

So what is the secret to the Prater’s success?

“Just daily work,” Bill said. “Just show up every day and try to give them what they need.”

“Taking care of the customer and give them what they need,” Carrie said. “For instance we had somebody who had a furnace go out at two o’clock in the morning. They’ll call Bill and he’ll come in and open up the shop. Four o’clock in the morning and someone needs a key … It’s the little things like that and word of mouth.”

Know more

Kirk Hardware, Inc.

848 Logan St.

773-4371

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; and closed Sunday.

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