July 25, 1996 in Washington Voices

Hardware Stores Court Former Ernst Customers

Ward Sanderson Staff Writer
 

Drivers looking in the direction of Valley Best-way can’t miss the building supply store’s new mission statement.

“Welcome Ernst customers,” the store’s reader board proclaims.

Valley Best-way, 11921 E. Sprague, sits just west of the now-vacant Ernst store. When the Valley’s Ernst Home Center closed July 12, the hardware pie stayed the same size but the slices got bigger.

Especially for operators located nearby.

“It’s bound to help us,” said Valley Best-way owner Cecil Cleveland. “It just has to.”

Sales are already up, Cleveland said. Valley Best-way sells building supplies predominantly to contractors.

Peters Hardware, just across the street and to the east at 12118 E. Sprague, has regained ground it lost when Ernst first opened in the Valley 26 years ago.

“We’ve been up probably 25 percent,” owner Gary Peters said. “When they came in, we dropped 25 percent.”

Although Ernst had re-niched itself as somewhat of a home furnishings dealer, the home improvement and hardware businesses clustered near Sprague and Pines still drew customers from one another.

Valley Best-way sells to contractors. Peters sells to folks doing home fix-ups. Ernst sold to a cross-section of both. Common products like batteries and light bulbs, though, are the real “fast movers,” Peters said.

“Everybody’s got their clientele. (But) we’re in competition with Alberston’s, we’re in competition with Payless across the street … We’re in competition with anyone with a front door.”

Cleveland is optimistic about Valley Best-way’s position in the market now that Ernst has shut down. But, as a former supplier of countertops and kitchen cabinets to Ernst, the shut-down is somewhat bittersweet.

“I’d rather see them here than gone,” he said, adding that customers would often park nearby and go to both stores for different items. Cleveland also said the lack of traffic draw Ernst once created could actually hurt other non-hardware businesses in the area.

“When you have traffic, it rubs off,” he said. “It has a rippling effect.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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