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It was a regular stream of customers at Frank's Hardware on Saturday, July 15. The steady business makes its pending closure all the more surprising. (Metro Wire photo)

Editorial: Closing of Frank’s signals end of an era

By Brandi Makuski

It was some years ago that the Stevens Point location of Kmart had a pharmacist named Dick.

I can’t recall his last name, but Dick — and his glorious white coif — certainly knew mine. He knew how old my kids were. He knew their allergies. He asked how their various sports activities were. And he always asked me if I was getting enough sleep.

I was no one special. Dick, who retired a few years before Kmart closed in 2018, did this for every customer who came through, and in a very grandfatherly way. This relationship wasn’t terribly efficient but it was essential to doing business in a small town or a close-knit neighborhood — and also in uniting our communities.

You experienced something very similar at Frank’s Hardware. Store owners announced on July 16 that it was closing after 82 years in business.

The owners and employees went above and beyond your average hardware store. They were a go-to for many in the community. For DIYers, this store was virtually manna from heaven: You could walk in asking for a thingamabob that connects to the doohickey on your toilet, and not only did they know exactly what you needed, but they also explained how to install it without making you feel small and ignorant.

The institutional knowledge of the staff is irreplicable and will leave a tremendous hole in the community. We’re all worse off for it. In short, if Frank’s didn’t have it, or couldn’t get it, you just didn’t need it.

The reasons behind Frank’s closing are varied, but among their challenges are supply chain delays, inability to find a buyer for the company, overworked management, and a lack of institutional knowledge across the industry.

It’s not unlike the challenges faced by many other businesses in our community (yes, and beyond). Too many, overly attached to their phones and seemingly unaware of their lack of personal accountability, enter the workforce without the drive to provide excellent customer service.

Being distracted by the latest TikTok challenge, the newest husband for some random Kardashian, or arguing with someone on social media…these all lead to bad things for us as people, and they have a direct impact on tearing down our communities because they reinforce self-centeredness rather than support for a local community.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t scale local. But it will take a monumental societal shift to right this ship. It will take thousands of Portage Co. residents, all walking in step to support and maintain the systems we’ve created to support and maintain our community.

If we don’t start prying ourselves, our employees, and our children, away from the overly-dramatic non-tragedies of social media, and reprioritize being physically involved with the decades-old institutions built to care for and manage our schools, workforce, and communities, we will see many more successful local stores succumb in a similar manner to Frank’s.