LANCASTER – You should have gone to Slaters in the first place.
That’s the motto of Slaters Hardware at 1141 N. Memorial Drive in the Plaza Shopping Center and what customers often say when looking for an item they can’t find elsewhere. The store has been in operation since 1946, making it a classic Fairfield County business.
“The secret to staying in business so long is caring about our customer base,” co-owner Lou Ann Weisenstein said. “It’s really important to us that they can come here, get help, find what they need and be able to trust us to know that we’re going to be able to give them the best possible service. That’s the most important thing.”
Weisenstein owns the business with her brother, Steve Slater, son, Nathan Weisenstein, nephew, Landon Slater, and cousin, Jackie Slater.
Steve Slater and Lou Ann Weisenstein’s grandparents, Bob and Henrietta Slater, started the business and opened it at 409 S. Maple Street. The business later moved to 560 E. Main St. before opening at its current location in 1959.
While Slaters certainly carries virtually any hardware item imaginable, it is much more than just a basic hardware store.
Yes, you can find a new lock, bolt or anything else one may expect to find at a hardware store. But Slaters also features a hobby department, a strength department that carries strongman equipment and even ingredients and equipment for home brewing of beer. Lou Ann Weisenstein also raises butterflies in the store during the summer.
“We diversify into just anything that will help the community and bring people into the store,” she said.
Steve Slater said the staff must be prepared for customers’ needs no matter what they are seeking.
“I think our success is based on that,” he said. “If you come in and need that odd thing or if you just need that normal thing, we’re there for you. If we can’t find it (at Slater’s) we try to find it (elsewhere) and send the customer in the right direction. And that helps them to come back and to trust us.”
Jackie Slater also spoke on the importance of good customer service.
“Because we have been in business for so long, we kind of know how the community operates,” she said. “We treat the community as we would ourselves and our family. That’s how you meet the needs of the customer.”
The business has about 25 employees, depending on the season.
Lou Ann Weisenstein said she hopes the business continues to improve and grow in the future.
“It all depends on our customer base and whether they’ll continue shopping at a brick-and-mortar store,” she said. “If they don’t continue shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, we’re going to have to change our philosophy and maybe take more phone calls and be able to find product for our customers.
“Lot of times they send us pictures on our cell phones and we can look that way without them having to come into the store to see if we even have it. But we still like to have hands on. We’re still a service-based business.”
But the company does have an online retail presence at www.slatershardware.com
Besides owning the store, the Slater family is also involved in real estate and owns numerous rental properties.
Slater’s Hardware is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and closed on Sunday.
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