By Bruce Carlson

We are very much settled in our new home. I’m getting to know the clunks and sounds of the house. The dripping sound in the basement is from the air conditioner removing the humidity. I don’t stop what I’m doing when the blower on the high-efficiency water heater comes on. I know the wind is picking up outside when I hear the tag on the power box banging around. The dripping sound in our bathroom is not water. It seems to have something to do with the ceiling fan. I think it’s from air moving through the vent. There is one sound I haven’t figured out yet. When standing under our bathroom in the basement, there is a clunk occasionally, especially when it’s windy and raining. I hear it, but can’t see what causes it.

All of these sounds and the degree of concern come from owning a home. For most of our married life, we have owned a home. We have learned how to recognize signs and symptoms (things like the sounds above) and react accordingly. One of the things I have learned is your local hardware store can be your friend.

The little hardware store

Growing up in Des Plaines we had a little hardware store close to the house. There was something neat about going into the store. The aisles were narrow, and stuff was lined up floor to ceiling. In one aisle you could find little bins of every bolt, nut, and washer you could ever want. The next aisle had tools, other aisles plumbing, and electrical supplies. If it wasn’t in the front of the store, just ask the guy behind the counter and he probably had it in the back.

One thing that you couldn’t get at the local hardware store was lumber. No surprise, you had to go to the lumber yard. They weren’t as plentiful as the local hardware store, but how often did one need a 2×4 or a sheet of plywood?

I don’t remember when, but I believe it was shortly after we moved into the first home we built in West Chicago in 1993, Home Depot opened a store nearby. This was great! It made the little local hardware store look like slim pickings. Not only did Home Depot have everything, they had lots of everything! Power and hand tools, a huge garden supply area, electrical and plumbing, you could pick from many items. Aisles of lumber, you could get all sorts of lengths and types of lumber.

It was heaven. Shortly after two other big box hardware stores came to town, Lowe’s and Menards. Now it may sound funny, but the color scheme at Home Depot (orange) felt much more inviting than Lowe’s (blue). Lowe’s was similar in size, but their blue was depressing. That and Lowe’s were farther away than Home Depot.  Then there was Menards.

Then there was Menards

Menards was much closer than Home Depot. One of the first things I noticed about Menards was they had groceries in the store. What kind of hardware store had groceries? It just wasn’t right. There was a sense of cheapness in the store. That and they had this cheesy guy doing their commercials. I was left with Home Depot as the man’s store.

I don’t know if it was completion between the stores or just my evolution in life, probably some of both, but my view of Home Depot began to change. I was becoming more and more dissatisfied with Home Depots’ quality of products. I bought a lot of nuts and bolts and screws from Home Depot. I like to build things. Other points of dissatisfaction were the lack of someone to ask questions about, where could I find whatever? The straw that broke the camel’s back was, the aisles being closed, and no one was working in them.

I could understand closing an aisle while using a forklift to get something on or off shelves, but closing the aisle I needed something from and no one around was it, I sucked it up and went to Menards. It was late in the evening as a drove to Menards, but all I had to do was get the item I needed and get out. As I walked into the store it didn’t seem quite so bad. I knew where the groceries were and stayed away from that part of the store.

I found what I needed and headed home. What I bought worked, and I felt lucky. Not everything in Menards was cheap. Over the next period of months, I found myself going to Menards more and Home Depot less. I think the biggest thing I noticed was the friendly help at Menards. They seemed happy to see me. I could find someone to ask a question of. I’ve even had forklift drivers come by and offer to help or ask if I had found what I was looking for.

Menards is winning the battle

I’ve had a lot more luck with the hardware I purchased from Menards. Menards doesn’t have the name brands I grew up with, but what I have purchased at Menards over these last years has worked pretty well. I recently saw an article saying Home Depot was more for professionals, well I guess the homeowner’s approach by Menards is winning the battle.

But now we are here in southern Illinois. There is a Menards about 20 miles away. As we started to settle in there were things, I needed to get to fix up the house the way we wanted to. The drive to Menards isn’t bad, but it does take time. And I drive by a Lowe’s. Okay, I confess I sucked up my dislike of Lowe’s color scheme and started to stop at Lowe’s.

Last night I ran into the Home Depot issue at Lowe’s. Finding someone to ask for help and no one to help find the price for the sheet of plywood I wanted to buy. In fairness when I did find some to ask, they did know where the dowel rods were. But when trying to checkout and was told I should go back to where I found the plywood and take a picture of the price on the shelf was more than I wanted to do.

I left and drove up to Menards. I found what I wanted and was out the door in 15 minutes. Much unlike the 45 minutes I spent at Lowe’s and had nothing. Menards may not have everything I want. I may have to look somewhere else, but Menards will still be my number-one choice. I can always stop at Lowe’s on my way back home.

The cheesy guy

It’s good to know our new home will have the same quality of goods I can get from Menards. I might even buy some groceries there someday. Oh, I can appreciate the cheesy guy commercials. I’ll bet he was a down-to-earth homeowner also.

So ends another story of our moving and starting retirement. We hope you’ll continue to follow our blogs and articles as we continue to move into retirement. As we get into our new home, we’ll continue to report on what we find going on in southern Illinois.