Hardware store is a local landmark

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 12:36 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The building where Ericson’s Cash Hardware is located in Stromsburg was built in 1945, and the 92-year-old owner still enjoys working there.

Owner Sterling Anderson started working at the business in 1946, after graduating from high school. “I worked in here a little bit for the Ericson’s as they were my neighbors here in town I live,” Anderson said. “I worked for them until 1948. In 1948, I joined the Army. I got caught up in the Korean War.”

After serving in the military, he came back and worked for the Ericson’s again. “In 1954, I bought into this business 50 percent. I was partners with an Ericson,” Anderson said. “We were in business until he passed away 19 years later.” Then, Anderson bought the other half of the business, and has owned it ever since. What makes this store special? Customer service. “Over the years, we’ve known all of the customers,” Anderson said. “It’s always been about trying to help the people of the community with any problems that they might have.”

Anderson says another key to success is liking your work. “You have to be interested in what you’re doing. If it’s just something to do to get a paycheck, it’s probably not going to last. The people who have worked for us have enjoyed their work, have been interested in it, and they have taken stock in the business as though it was their own.”

Longtime employee Carolyn Nielsen says she worked her way up from being a clerk, to keeping the books. “I’m still doing the book work, I still help Sterling order, and still wait on customers a little bit,” Nielsen said. She says she’s retired, but still comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays to work a few hours. She’s worked at the business for more than 30 years.

“Sterling has always said that he prides himself in giving the customer what they want,” Nielsen said. " We usually have everything they need for their project, and he prides himself in them walking out the door with everything they need.”

One of the many changes that Anderson has seen over the years in the hardware business is the changing size of family farms in the area. “When we started there would be 4 or 5 families living on one section of ground,” Anderson said. “And there’s a lot of sections around here now that don’t have one family. We’ve lost a lot of the farmsteads, those where they raised chickens, cattle, and hogs. Now, hardly anybody has the small animals, and it’s settled down to the bigger feed yards and the big machinery.”

But even at age 92, Anderson has learned to adapt to what people need today when it comes to hardware. With the support of his family, he aims to continue keeping the doors of his store open, and to continue with his mission of serving others.

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