OUR MISSION is to provide top-quality products, reasonable prices, and prompt, professional service while maintaining our long-standing reputation for unsurpassed friendliness and hospitality, meeting and exceeding every customer’s need or desire, all done with a smile and resulting in a very personal, pleasurable shopping experience for every customer.
We are the current owner-operators of NORTHSIDE HARDWARE, INC. Well, we’re the “young blood” in this family operation. Our uncle Don Vanevenhoven says he’s retired, but he shows up almost every day. Jay’s father, Paul Vanevenhoven, is semi-retired, which means he’s here most of the time too. (Lee’s father, John, who passed away in 2007, is sorely missed and remembered often and fondly by our loyal customers.)
Maybe a little history would help...
NORTHSIDE HARDWARE began in 1948 as a Gambles Store, owned and operated by our great uncle Herb Hermsen and his wife Hattie. Folks in those days told Herb he’d never make it go way out there in the country. Businesses in Appleton were on College Avenue, not out amidst the farms. But, Herb went ahead anyway. Then in 1951 he began his association with the OUR OWN HARDWARE group and we were officially incorporated as NORTHSIDE HARDWARE. The 1950’s were good years for Herb. He needed help!
Enter Don, John, and Paul Vanevenhoven.
Without a family of his own, Herb looked for reliable employees and found them in three nephews from Little Chute—brothers, Don, John, and Paul. Each brother came on board as he entered high school, and each chose to make the store a full-time career after graduation. A family business indeed!
The three brothers eventually bought the business from Herb, but not until he instilled in them what it took to run a successful retail operation—the customer comes first. Herb’s most important instruction-- “When someone walks in that door, you drop whatever you’re doing and wait on that customer.” (60 years later that’s still our first priority.) Shortly into the brothers’ tenure, we became a True Value member.
The “Boys” worked well as a team. The Garden Center developed into a major part of the business in the 1960’s. These were the days before the discounters and box stores, and the only other place to get flowers was a greenhouse or NORTHSIDE HARDWARE. Spring became a very busy time of year. Even after his retirement, Herb still came in to help and could be found tending geraniums in the Garden Center. Herb passed away in his late 80’s, and John, (Lee’s father), became the expert and manager of the Garden Center. Don, the oldest brother, oversaw the whole hardware operation as president. Paul, the youngest brother, worked the sales floor and eventually managed the Power Equipment Center.
Under the three Vanevenhoven brothers, NORTHSIDE HARDWARE earned a reputation for the kind of personal service and attention that allowed the store to more than compete with the discounters when they came on the scene.
The hardware store became a family business ON-THE-GROW! In 1975 a warehouse was added. A full-service small engine repair shop moved into that warehouse in 1982. A second store, VANEVENHOVEN HARDWARE, was added in DePere, Wisconsin in 1982. The original Appleton hardware store was remodeled to twice its size in 1988. The buildings received a new façade in June 1994. 1996 saw a major addition to NORTHSIDE POWER EQUIPMENT CENTER.
Over the years most of the “Boys” family members have worked in the business for at least a short time. Among the many cousins who found part-time and full-time work in the family hardware were Lee and Jay. Both worked part-time at the business in high school and went on to other careers. Both eventually married, had families, and opted to come back into the business. Lee rejoined the family business in 1994, Jay in 1996.
Though there has been another “changing of the guard”, Lee and Jay continue to run NORTHSIDE HARDWARE on the same principles that have stood the test of time—60 years plus!