In 1940, Ardell Lanier was working in a small hardware store on 2nd Street in Lexington, N.C. Owned and operated by his brother-in-law, the store was not doing well, and Mr. Lanier’s brother-in-law planned to close up shop. At 20 years old, Mr. Lanier asked to buy out his relative and take over the business himself. In partnership with his wife, Edna, Lanier gathered the necessary funds for the sale.
Lanier Hardware was born.
The first thing Mr. Lanier did was start stocking his shelves with whatever his customers asked for. This policy has led to the company’s long-running slogan:
“If we don’t have it, and we can’t get it, you don’t need it.” (Lexington Dispatch, 1979.)
Before long, the store’s growing inventory necessitated an expansion, and Mr. Lanier purchased and moved into the shop next door. He would repeat this tactic a few more times before moving to the present location on South Main Street. The shop continues to undergo periodic expansions and renovations to accommodate its ever-growing selection of products. Additionally, customers can now find the items they need on the Lanier Hardware website.
By 1945, the business had doubled in size from its original 1,600 square feet by adding sporting goods and a hobby department. This addition was due in part to a Lanier child’s interest in models. Also at this time, Mrs. Lanier joined the staff to manage the books, though she would often work at home to take care of the paperwork and their two children, a son, Gail and a daughter, Ann. Gail would go on to join the family business at age 12. Originally in charge of placing orders for the sports department, he now serves as company president.
Over the years, Lanier Hardware would continue to undergo expansions. By 1950, the company added a housewares department, with an additional 1,600 square feet.
Shortly after this expansion, Gail’s sister, Ann Lanier Easter, started assisting her mother in the shop.
Said Ann, “Getting into the family business was just natural. We grew up in it. We’d come up to the store with Mother, and I’d help her count change and run a register.” (Dispatch, 1993.)
As the payroll continued to grow, so did the store’s inventory. In 1962, Lanier Hardware moved to its current location on South Main Street. This move meant that the Lanier family could own the building in which its growing family business was now located. During this time, the family acquired the property behind the store and turned it into a parking lot. Ardell knew street-front parking was not going to be enough for the Main Street Store. The availability of convenient parking has had a significant effect on the store’s success over the years.
The store would continue to grow in its new location. In 1968, the family added a second floor before putting in a back room in 1973. In 1978, a Third Avenue wing was added to house the sporting goods, and a second story was built on to the structure in 1988.
After some pushing from Gail, Ann, and others, the store computerized its inventory in 1988. By then, two more family members had joined the workforce. Gail’s daughter, Natalie Lanier Taylor, and her husband, Greg Taylor, started working at the store shortly after their college graduations. Natalie would work in the accounts receivable office alongside her grandmother and aunt, while Greg would start work on computerizing the inventory.
After 11 years, there is still merchandise that has yet to be recorded. In 1989, Gail’s twin sons Stanley and Stewart Lanier came onboard to assist in the family business. Stewart joined his dad in sporting goods, and Stanley worked with his grandfather in hardware.
Not much changed for the Lanier family during the 1990s. In 1998, the company added a service known as “Just Ask Rental” to its inventory and expanded into cyberspace with the site’s first website and e-mail address. The rental service is an expansion of Tru Serv, what Cotter & Co. is known as today.
June of 2005 marked 65 years for Lanier’s Hardware. By this time, the shop had become a local legend, with tour buses dropping by on occasion to see it. Mr. Lanier was always happy to show off his wares to visitors. In 2007, Ardell and Edna Lanier retired after many years of hard work. Around the same time, Ann left the hardware store to take over Standell Properties (Property Management), which operates from the new Lanier Village. Then Lanier’s underwent a complete store remodel. The $475,000 investment included all-new lighting, new store fixtures, and new signage inside and out. The parking lot was re-paved, and the layout was changed.
Overall, the little hardware store has grown to occupy 85,000 square feet, including stock rooms, offices, and showroom floor space. However, the shop has never lost its family feel or commitment to customer service. Sadly, in 2014, Ardell Lanier passed away at the age of 93. His visitation was held in the hardware store, and close to 1000 people come to pay their respects in the location where he serviced them for more than 70 years.