PEORIA — Like the hard rap of a fast hammer, the clock is ticking on a South Peoria stalwart.
Nimmo Hardware, which has been providing do-it-yourself supplies and advice for eight decades, is up for sale. If no buyer comes forward by the end of the month, owner Dave Campbell plans to liquidate his inventory, lock the front door and retire from work. A closure would mean the end to the only hardware store left in South Peoria.
“I would love for someone in the neighborhood to take over,” Campbell, 69, told the Journal Star of Peoria.
Constructed in 1936, the 3,000-square-foot building has hosted a hardware store since at least 1940. After original owner Ray Zerwekh, several others ran the shop before Robert Nimmo bought the place in 1972.
Three years later, Campbell went to work in the area as a hardware wholesaler. One of his first customers was Nimmo Hardware, and he got to know the family over time. When the store went up for sale in 2005, he gladly snapped it up. With tradition and steadiness as the business’s main selling point, he altered nothing – not even the name.
“The signs were up. They were a good business. Everybody liked ’em,” he says with a chuckle. “So I didn’t change anything.
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“Why change a good thing?”
That’s been the unofficial business strategy for decades. The throwback atmosphere harks to cramped, busy hardware stores of decades past. Worn wooden floors stretch under endless shelves jammed with bolts and nails and screws and paint and pumps and plungers and glue and rakes and pry bars and sledgehammers and just about anything else required for a gritty repair job.
This is no big-box hardware store: You won’t find a vast array of stock extending to holiday decor or snack treats. Rather, Nimmo sells pragmatism. The store’s stock focuses on the basic, affordable needs of local residents and handymen.
“Menard’s has 85,000 more square footage than I have,” said Campbell. “But down here, we have what they need down here.”
Plus, Campbell and his three employees can advise customers how to do a home-repair job of just about any size.
“Heck, the people who work here probably can plumb a house,” he said.
That kind of know-how draws the likes of James McCoy, who has lived in South Peoria all of his 52 years. McCoy, a landlord with multiple rental properties, keeps an account at Nimmo for his frequent repair needs. Though he pops by in his car, many customers don’t have that luxury.
“There are a lot of people in the neighborhood who buy supplies here, and they don’t have transportation,” McCoy says. “There’s a lot of foot traffic.”
Campbell says business remains steady as always. But not only is he ready to retire, his longtime manager also has decided to leave for a better-paying job.
“I don’t want to hang around to train another manager,” Campbell says.
For a while, to select customers like handymen, he has mentioned the possibility of selling the business. A few expressed an interest in taking over.
“But nobody’s come up with any cash yet,” Campbell says.
He said he is asking $140,000, which is essentially the cost of the inventory. The property, valued by Peoria County at just under $30,000, would essentially be a throw-in, he said.
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Regarding the sale scenario, Campbell has alerted the city of Peoria. City Manager Patrick Urich said the city could talk to a prospective buyer about possible tax incentives. Otherwise, though, City Hall — though hoping the business can continue to serve South Peoria — doesn’t function as a realty agent.
Campbell also has contacted the Minority Business Development Center. He hasn’t gotten any sales leads yet. However, the organization’s CEO, Denise Moore, continues to seek possible buyers, as she realizes the vital role Nimmo Hardware plays in the community.
“I just hope someone can pick up the mantle and keep it going,” she said.
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