70 years in business: Zerkel’s Hardware celebrates anniversary with customer appreciation day
MOUNT JACKSON – Since its establishment in 1946, the folks who run Zerkel’s Hardware have seen their share of change. At the time of the company’s founding, Harry Truman was president, World War II had just ended and a gallon of gas was 15 cents.
Zerkel’s will hold a customer appreciation day to celebrate its 70th anniversary from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 24. at the store, which is located at 6191 Main St., Mount Jackson.
James E. Zerkel founded Zerkel’s Hardware Inc. in 1946, offering items for plumbing, heating, electricity and propane. Propane served as a major source of income for the family operated store before that part of the business was sold to Columbia Propane in 1998. It was then bought by current owner AmeriGas, which rents office space in the Zerkel’s building.
Jack Zerkel said that at the propane business’ peak, he and his staff sold 4.3 million gallons of gas per year, by far the biggest supplier in the area at the time.
After James Zerkel’s death in 1976, the business was passed on to his four children, Harriet Hiner and Ronnie, Jack and Jimmy Zerkel. The four ran the business for decades before stepping away. Hiner still works two days a week or so doing bookkeeping for the company.
Despite the furor of change raging around it and around business in general, the family said one constant when it comes to Zerkel’s is customer service.
“I remember when we were commission agent for a gas company in West Virginia and we had to go up there and bring back truckloads of cylinders,” Hiner said. “One particular time, somebody ran out on a weekend and we didn’t have any gas. Daddy took the tank off the house, our house, and took it to the customer. That’s what we’ve been brought up with. You give your all for your customers and it pays off.”
The Zerkels said that as business changes and local, family run businesses become fewer as they’re replaced by centrally located nationwide operations, the feelings of caring for and being trusted by the customers are impacted.
“There’s no personal contact,” Jack Zerkel said. “Every customer out there, to them, is a number. We weren’t brought up that way.”
Hiner talked about what the store’s customers mean to the four siblings and why they chose to celebrate their anniversary by celebrating those who’ve helped keep the doors open and the lights on.
“It’s just a small way of showing our appreciation to the customers that we’ve had for all these years,” she said. “We’re not doing anything big, just hot dog and drinks and some special prices on some items and just a big thank you to the people for helping us stay here. We’ll also have door prizes.”
In addition to capitalizing on some good deals and food, the anniversary celebration will serve as a reunion of sorts for the store’s longtime customers.
“The people will see people they haven’t seen for a long time,” Jack Zerkel said. “Where did all those years go so fast?”
Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org