Tom Zetah sells the Hardware Hank in Motley
Tad Hoefs from Browerville the new owner
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Tom Zetah, owner of Tom’s Hardware Hank in Motley, has sold his business. The new owner, Tad Hoefs, took over ownership Monday.
Zetah, born and raised south of Motley and graduated from Motley High School in 1957, purchased the hardware store from Alvie and Grace Nygreen in 1979.
“Before that, I farmed for nearly 20 years, raising turkeys, hogs and cattle, but not at the same time,” said Zetah. “I always was needing a piece of hardware, so would go to the store in Motley.”
Zetah said he and Alvie kidded each other about Zetah buying the store. When Alvie passed away in 1978, he went to Grace and asked if she wanted to sell. The answer was yes.
Zetah has been trying to sell the store for six years. He really pushed to sell when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year ago.
“I need to concentrate on my health now,” he said. “I am thankful that Tad came along.”
Tom had gotten to the point he was going to sell out the inventory and walk away from the store when he struck a deal with Hoefs.
“I hated to do it. If the hardware store closed, other stores would follow and people wouldn’t stop at all in Motley,” he said. “Tad had looked at the store before. When I was contemplating walking away, I called him. He came to look at it again and was more interested. We were able to strike a deal.”
Zetah said he is happy with the sale. He didn’t want to sell to just anybody, He wanted to ensure it would be running for a long time; a going and growing business. He feels Hoefs is the one to do that.
“For 60 years I have been going to work every day. I am looking forward to relaxing,” Zetah said. “It’s time to sit back.”
Zetah lives on the Crow Wing River and plans to spend time enjoying the view and his family.
“It will be hard to change my priorities since I have worked for so long,” he said. “But, I have plenty to do at home.”
Zetah’s wife, Karen, and his children Susan, Scott, Gary, Terry, David and Mark have all worked at the hardware store off and on over the past 33 years.
Hoefs has been in the hardware business most of his life. He currently lives in Browerville with his wife, LuAnn, and owns the Browerville Hardware Hank.
“I began in the business at age 20, working at Zosel’s Hardware in Wadena for about nine years.,” he said. “That’s where I learned the business. I also worked at the Miller’s True Value in Staples. I purchased the Browerville Hardware Store in 1999.”
With only a week under his belt in the new store, Hoefs is not positive about what changes he wants to see in the store.
“I am going to first concentrate on adding appliances to the store, both new and used. I will also be offering appliance parts,” said Hoefs. “I sell appliances in the Browerville store, and when the economy took a downturn, I began selling refurbished appliances and parts. People don’t always have the money to buy new.”
But, he stressed that the change in Motley won’t happen over night. There will need to be some rearranging in the store, first.
“I won’t be eliminating a thing in the Motley store, but do plan on expanding the inventory,” he said.
When Hoefs learned Zetah was going to shut Tom’s Hardware down, he knew he had to step in. He said a small town needs its own hardware store.
Hoefs stresses customer service as the key to a successful business. He has no qualms about special ordering a product.
“If someone has a problem, they need to be able to talk with a knowledgeable person to help them. People are not going to get that with a big box store,” he said.
Hoefs said Zetah had a great inventory in his store. He plans to merge product with the two stores and have much of the same in both. He will eventually change over the POS system at the Motley store so whoever is working will be able to access the inventory at both places.
Hoefs has two adult children, Stephanie Jordahl, who lives in Motley, and Colin who lives in Browerville. He has two grandchildren.
Zetah, who began his retirement Monday, said he cannot measure how much he has appreciated his customers.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have existed. The loyalty they showed for the community was wonderful. That’s my huge thank you for the 33 years I was in business,” he said.