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Former dealer opens another store -- 20 years later

Jim Cohen has been wanting to run a hardware store ever since he sold Central Hardware, a Brighton, Mo.-based chain of home improvement stores, in 1989. Founded by his great-grandfather in 1903, the company grew to about 38 stores in six states at its peak, according to an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

The chain was sold to a partnership that included the Belgian retailer GIB and an executive from Handy Andy Home Improvement Centers. Cohen stayed on board until 1992.

The company eventually declared bankruptcy and ended up closing in the mid-1990s.

Cohen spent the next two decades working as a consultant and looking for an opportunity to open another hardware store. Several deals fizzled out. But then the 65-year-old great-grandfather found what he was looking for at aSears Hardware location, which he opened last month in Overland, Mo. The urban setting is somewhat of a departure for the Sears small-town 6,500-sq.-ft. format.

Cohen think he can make it work using tried-and-true hardware retailing principles: greeting customers at the door. Six of the original Central Hardware employees or associates have already been hired.

Obviously, there are a number of locations where a concept like this can work,” Jim told the Post-Dispatch. “There’s a ton of real estate out there that I’ve looked at. After one year of setting down a firm foundation, then we’ll see where it goes.”

To read the entire interview with Cohen, click here.

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