Brownsboro Hardware is a favorite local hardware store with two locations: one on Brownsboro Road near the Watterson, and one in Prospect. This is not your typical hardware store, nor does it have your typical hardware store clients. It’s true that it is a full-service store with all the typical inventory and trappings, but there is so much more to find at these two stores than just hardware.
We visited the original Brownsboro Hardware, located on Brownsboro Road, and met with owner Jim Lehrer, who shared a wealth of information about this business. Most of these fun facts pertain to the Brownsboro Road location, but several apply to both. So here, we bring you 12 fun and little-known facts about this local gem.
1. More than 200 people a day come to Brownsboro Hardware, not for the hardware, but for the post office. They have a contract postal unit there, staffed by the beloved Miss Chevy, that is the busiest one of its kind in the entire state of Kentucky. Just to give you an indication of how busy they are, they have $60,000 in stamp inventory alone there.
2. They are the largest dealer of Weber Grills and Green Eggs in the Bluegrass State. They are also an authorized service provider for Weber Grills. This means that if you bought your Weber somewhere else, you can take it to either Brownsboro Hardware location to get it fixed.
3. There are 36 employees between the two stores. On a Monday morning, I counted seven on the floor alone, all of them busy. Also, they range in age from 16 to 70 years old. Recently, a favorite mainstay employee, Malcolm, retired, and he was more than 80 years old.
4. There has been a hardware store at the original location since 1960. Brownsboro Hardware came to be when current owners Jim and Marilyn Lehrer bought it in June 1998. To put this in perspective, they were building this hardware store when they were finishing the Watterson and building I-71. The Prospect location was opened on the site of the former True Value Hardware store in 2011.
5. They have never run out of the “Three S’s”: salt, shovels and sleds. Last winter was the first year they had a shortage, and they did run out for a few hours, but that was remedied by deliveries made in the middle of the night. Being from Minneapolis, Lehrer sees the vast importance of this. He had to ration the individual sales of salt last year, and overall sales were still more than 365,000 pounds.
6. There is nowhere else in town that you can buy a gift, card and shipping envelope and mail it all in one place. This is a brilliant one-stop shop. Also, their selection of greeting cards is a StyleBlueprint favorite.
5. They have the largest selection of stick candles in Louisville. Name the color, and it’s here. Good to know in case you are having a huge dinner party and need to fill all your candleholders.
6. Take a look at the changing signage around the store and at the end of the aisles. It’s where they place items they are highlighting for sale. The signs are always creative and sometimes give you a little chuckle. It’s hard to creatively write a hardware store sign, but they seem to have managed to inject personality in theirs.
7. Don’t replace your propane tank with a new one every time you run out. Just bring your empty ones to either location, and they can fill it up.
8. The Brownsboro Hardware booth at the Kentucky Home Show in February at the Fair and Expo Center is always very popular. Why, you ask? Because of their great products? Well, yes, they do bring all of their Weber grills to the show. But every afternoon they put a whole turkey on the rotisserie part of one of the grills, cook it and give away free samples. That’s a turkey a day for all three days, and people follow the smell of deliciousness to get their sample.
9. They are open 362 days a year, only closing on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Jim Lehrer says he works about every one of those 362 days.
10. Adults and children all grab a free lollipop on the way out. It’s just what you do. The store goes through a bag of Dum Dums a week.
11. They have four grilling events a year, often featuring local chefs at the helm. At each event, they provide a feast, charging a flat rate for the food (usually $15) and donate all the proceeds to charity. The food is outstanding, and many people purposely eat their breakfast, lunch or dinner here in the parking lot. At the last big event, they raised more than $10,000 that they donated to Blessings in a Backpack and The Crusade for Children.
12. The most popular fixtures at the Brownsboro Road location are not the hardware or the employees. It’s their three dogs: Junie, Lady and Dingo. Pictured below are Lady and Junie, who arrive at 2 p.m. every day with Marilyn Lehrer. They sit back by the post office, and many people come up there specifically to see them. They definitely have a fan club and are featured in all of the store’s advertisements.
Here’s a final fun fact: This is Jim Lehrer’s first hardware business. He was in the wholesale hardware business before this, with his clientele including more than 1,000 hardware stores across the nation. That job taught him what made a hardware store successful and competitive. When he opened both Brownsboro Hardware locations, he knew he would be successful for two reasons. First, there were existing hardware stores in those locations. Second, the clientele was established and loyal. What that clientele wanted was quality goods and personalized customer service.
Lehrer knows that everything in his store can be purchased at a big box store. What he counts on is that people come into his stores because they want service and expertise. How many times do you buy something at a big store only to find out it is completely wrong because you tried to figure it out yourself? Lehrer says that his customer service and knowledgeable employees take that problem away. This business is a testament to shopping small and locally.
Brownsboro Hardware locations:
4858 Brownsboro Rd., Louisville • (502) 897-1591
9521 U.S. Hwy. 42, Prospect • (502) 292-2595
Visit them online at brownsborohardware.com.