Scott and Steve Marshall still ring up customers from the wooden counter their grandfather built when he opened Marshall Hardware in 1939. The aisles haven’t changed much since the 1980s and customers can still charge their purchases to a house account.
And yet, the family-owned hardware store has remained a Lakeside institution for 81 years.
“It’s a good community spot,” Steve said. “People come in and find out what’s happening in the neighborhood.”
“And still viable in the Amazon.com era,” Scott added.
Steve and Scott, who have owned the hardware store at 4415 East Superior St. since 2000, when they took over from their father, Lyman Marshall Jr., say the lessons they learned sweeping the floors of the shop in junior high for 25 cents an hour, following around employees and asking questions, still guide them running the store in the 21st century.
That customer service and know-how has helped the store service when chains like Menards, The Home Depot and Fleet Farm popped up in Duluth, and later, Amazon and other online stores.
Not only can they sell a product, but they can also explain to a customer how to use it so they can go home and try it.
“You get great satisfaction out of helping people through their projects and empowering people that they can do it themselves,” Steve said. “We know most of our customers by name."
That’s helped Andrew Busam, who lives within walking distance of the store and admits he’s not very handy or mechanically inclined.
“Whenever I have something, I can come in here and I can kind of give the general idea to the folks here and they can figure out what I’m saying — and they’ve never failed to give me the thing I need,” Busam said.
Founded by Lyman Marshall Sr. and his wife, Myrtle, the store opened in 1939 down the street from its current location. In 1949, the Marshalls relocated to a new building, where it remains today.
After his father died, Lyman Marshall Jr. owned the store from 1965-2000. Then his sons Steve and Scott took over. Their brother, Alan; sister, Beth; and nephew, A.J, all work at the store today.
“A family tradition of hard work is really what it is,” Alan said.
The only non-Marshall working there is Patty Sullivan. She grew up working in her family’s hardware store in Michigan and later at Daugherty's Hardware & Appliances in Duluth for years. She headed east to Marshall when Daugherty’s closed in 2008.
Tom Jesperson, who recently bought a faucet stem from the store for a leaky sink, said his Victorian house on London Road is often in need of new hardware. Why has he been a Marshall regular for more than 40 years?
“Well, it’s really obvious,” Jesperson said. “It’s one of the last remaining neighborhood hardware stores, which I’m patronizing every chance I get … they’re just the best people.”