Brillion hardware tradition stays alive
Hardware Plus grew from one man’s desire to keep store local
By Mike Mathes
Hardware Plus store owner Mike Buboltz is living out his passion for hardware and small engines at Brillion’s local hardware store. Mike Mathes photos

A few years ago Mike Buboltz faced a dilemma.

He knew from conversations with Hank Carstens that the owner of the Brillion mill and hardware store was looking to retire.

What troubled him most was the knowledge that his hometown of 3,000 people might find itself without a hardware store.

“That would have been terrible for our community,” Buboltz said.

He decided to do something about it. Today, as he approaches his second anniversary in business, Buboltz is proud to have kept Brillion’s hardware franchise alive along Water Street in his store known as Hardware Plus.

“I knew Hank wanted to retire, and we talked for almost 2-1/2 years to bring this to fruition,” Buboltz said.

It didn’t hurt that Buboltz still carried the dream from his teen years that one day he would own his own hardware store. Buboltz grew up enjoying all the old Brillion traditions with his dad, pricing up project needs at places like Brillion Building Supply, Dvorak Hardware and Brillion TV. It fueled his passion for hardware and especially small engines.

“I figured with all the money spent here I might as well buy the store,” the owner chuckled.

Today, the passion for a great local hardware experience is evident in his store offerings and service, as Buboltz operates Hardware Plus under the Do-It-Best label.

Great franchise

From Buboltz’s perspective, the Do-It-Best franchise brings a great set of hardware solutions to local communities.

“Their product lines are great. They offer great brand names and they offer competitive pricing by shopping the big box stores for you to keep the prices in line,” he said.

“Do-It-Best” is great to work with, and they are known for maintaining pricing and stability in the hardware marketplace, Buboltz added.

Do-It-Best offers more than 68,000 hardware inventory items. While Hard-ware Plus does not carry them all, the Brillion store can order anything from the product line and have it to the customer in a quick time frame.

Small engine work

Hardware Plus also has a keen eye on small engine sales and repairs.

“If it has anything to do with small engines, we can help,” Buboltz said.

Hardware Plus is an official dealer for both Ariens and Stihl small engine products, but the store’s repair crew will work with any kind of small engine item to provide repair service.

For Buboltz, choosing to be an Ariens dealership was a hometown decision to support one of Brillion’s leading industries.

When it came to picking the Stihl line of power tools, the store owner sided with his sense of quality. “They just make a good, high-quality piece of equipment in everything they do. When you are a local store owner, you want to know that the people you meet on the street have confidence in the quality of the products you are selling them.”

Buboltz feels that Stihl is one of the best built brands of equipment available for chain saws, lawn trimmers and leaf blowers. In fact, he quadrupled the space allotted to Stihl in his store since taking over.

Multitude of services

For Buboltz, owning a small town hardware store means offering services that match the needs of the greater community.

Hardware Plus customers cannot miss the large paint department upon entering the front door.

Valspar Paints and Best Look interior and exterior paints make up key product offerings in the paint department. Hardware Plus will custom mix any paint color to match customer needs, working from a computer custom matching program.

Key cutting along with glass and screen repair are key services offered at Hardware Plus.

The store also fills propane tanks for customers.

Free drop off and delivery service (in a 12-mile radius) is offered for those needing small engine repairs.

Open Sundays

Hardware Plus is open every day of the calendar week, including half days on Sundays. Buboltz explained that the move to Sunday hours was one of his riskiest but best moves.

“It’s an attempt to try to keep as many shoppers in town as possible. A lot of people do projects on Sundays, and we are there to help them. Sundays have been working our really well for us and the community,” he said.

Mondays through Fridays, the store is open from 7:30 a. m. to 6 p. m. Saturdays the hours are from 7:30 a. m. to 3 p. m.

Buboltz acknowledges he does not get many days off. But what does that matter to a guy who loves what he is doing.

In fact, he is known to hang around the repair shop after hours, just so he can get caught up on some of the needs for fixing screens, windows, patio doors and the like.