For five generations, the Lulloff Family has tried to follow the 10 Commandments of retail trade.
Joel and Rick Lulloff know the list is hanging somewhere in a dark corner of the store. They don’t have to produce it. They continue to live it thanks to indoctrination they received from their late father, Fred Jr., known to many as “Boyce.”
Their objective like their dad and Uncle Alex before them, their grandfather Fred Sr. before them and great grandfather Herman Lulloff before him is simply this—try to make the customers comfortable and do your best to take care of them.
It’s a recipe for success that has shaped Lulloff True Hardware into a Kiel area icon.
“The business has been here in the family for the generations that go way back,” Rick Lulloff said. “People still come in and remember Boyce and Alex, and they still speak a little German on occasion. They remember Uncle Willard who always kept a sporting conversation going and served as our in-house encyclopedia on the history of baseball.”
As Rick puts it, “We’re just carrrying on what was a pretty good foundation.”
Kiel’s True Value Hardware continues to serve all the needs of the community, literally from nuts and bolts to pellet stoves and appliances.
Beyond product offerings, the store is also seen by many as a comunity resource. “Our knowledge of product and experience in the community are important to people,” Rick said.
Joel Lulloff noted that the store fields a lot of calls from the public, and questions may range from, “Who do I hire?” to “Where can I find this?”
The calls are often the basis for local referrals to other retailers in Kiel or the surrounding area. Yet, the Lulloff True Value staff sees the importance of those questions. “People see us as a place to get information they need,” Joel said.
Citizen of the Year
Lulloff Hardware added a wonderful set of community kudos to its repertoire this fall, when the store, its owners and staff were honored by the Kiel Kiwanis Club as Kiel’s Citizen of the Year.
“We were truly overwhelmed, and we still are,” Rick Lulloff said. “And, it’s pretty amazing because people are still congratulating us.”
But the best part about the recognition is that it’s mutual. “We are absolutely glad we are here in Kiel. That’s the bottom line....receiving this kind of recognition, that’s a pretty good feeling.”
Joel echoed the same sentiments, “We like to help people out. It’s an absolute two way street. We learned from the best that you do what you have to in order to keep the customer happy.”
“Thanks to Boyce, we learned that the boss is the people walking through our doors,” Joel added.
Customer service goes well beyond the owners at Lulloff True Value Hardware. It’s a staff-wide commitment.
Rich Greuel serves as the store’s appliance repair technician. “He is second to none,” said Rick Lulloff. “Unlike doctors, Rich makes house calls. By the time we get the chance to ask him if he has scheduled a call, he often says it’s already done.”
Pat Langenfeld and Adam Raquet are two of the key retail people, with both carrying a focus and sales and installation of pellet stoves. “Pat has also been doing a lot work behind the scenes on our technology,” Rick said. “He’s really worked hard on our electronic inventory, special orders and point of sale efficiencies.”
Jason Lulloff (Joel’s son) is the appliance manager, while his sister Allie also helps in retail sales part-time.
Fritz Anhalt is the Lulloff Hardware repair specialist. “He’s a real jack of all trades and there isn’t a project where he is afraid to dig in,” Rick noted.
Kurt Kane also works in sales, and is known as the “magic man” often performing tricks for the youngsters that frequent the store.
Donna Balz, a part-time salesperson, is the store’s opener.
Caleb Schmitt also works in part-time sales and assists with technology. Mitchell Meyer also serves sales in a part-time capacity.
Mary Casper serves as the store’s bookkeeper.
While many of the customer needs remain constant at Lulloff Hardware, some changes and innovations are always part of the landscape.
Environmental concerns have prompted innovation in water heaters.
One of the leading products on the market today is the GoGreen water heater from GE. With a promised savings of $320 in energy savings, the water heater is capable of paying for itself three times in a 10-year period.
Lulloff Hardware also handles the tankless water heaters that are popular in Europe. Again, consumers can save on electricity or gas, but they have to learn to adapt to new habits with such a device.
Light bulbs changing
One of the other key changes in hardware is the mandated changes in light bulbs.
Incandescent bulbs are on the way out. Thanks to new regulations they are being replaced by fluorescent bulbs, which may be more costly to purchase. However, the bulbs create energy and cost savings over time.
Sometime in the near future, many lights will be getting into LED opportuities. But that day is not yet here, according to Rick Lulloff.
“Basic hardware doesn’t change that much,” Joel said. “Yet one of our biggest challenges is to find components that are reliable. So much stuff is made in China or Mexico and it’s pretty cheap.”
As Rick noted, “The old saying still stands that the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
Lulloff True Value Hardware serves customers from 6:30 a. m. to 6 p. m. Monday through Friday. On Saturday’s the hours are 7 a. m. to 5 p. m.
The store remains closed on Sundays.
“If we miss ‘em on Sunday, hopefully we’ll get ‘em on Monday,” Joel said with a smile.