Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center News
Family Business: Door County Hardware’s Third Generation of Ownership
When Amy Austad-LaBott was born she did not know what she was going to get her hands on. Now, she is the proud owner of the third generational, Door County Hardware Co. located at 321 Jefferson Street, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235.
This local hardware generational business has so much cool history behind it and the store has pictures to prove it!
The Early Years
Amy’s grandfather, Russell Austad, worked at Sawyer Hardware on the West Side of Sturgeon Bay in the early 1930’s. In 1939, Alex Wilz and Herb Wiesner opened up Door County Hardware to the location where it is today.
Wilz and Wiesner appointed Russell as the manager. Even though the Great Depression was occurring during the opening of the store, Russell, and the owners at the time, made it through.
In 1953, Russell purchased Door County Hardware but unfortunately passed away seven years later. His wife, Lucille Austad, took over the business in his stead.
Amy’s father, Dan Austad, was only 18 years old when his father passed away. Dan left for college, graduated, and came back to Sturgeon Bay to take the store off of his mother’s hands.
The Second Generation Takes the Reigns
Dan’s brother, Tom Austad, graduated from college and, immediately after, decided to co-own the store in 1970 with Dan.
While brothers Dan and Tom owned and ran Door County Hardware, Amy went to college, graduated, and moved to the Fox Valley for about ten years to pursue a career in manufacturing.
She always has had an interest in home improvement projects and did not even think of coming back to Sturgeon Bay. But, one evening she received a phone call from her father and he expressed his interest in retiring from the store. After the phone call, the wheels started turning in Amy’s head.
After Amy considered the idea of becoming involved in the generational business, she decided it was time to move back to Sturgeon Bay. During 2001, Amy started buying her father’s shares of Door County Hardware. Five years later, her father retired.
Enter Amy – A Third Generation Owner
In 2010, Amy’s Uncle Tom passed away, so she then purchased Tom’s shares and took full responsibility of the family owned hardware store.
Even though Amy has been around the hardware store since she was a little girl and has a great knowledge of the products, she mentions how it can be difficult for a woman to run a hardware store due to some lingering stigmas.
In addition, owning your own business doesn’t come cheap, so Amy worked diligently to come up with a strategic plan to buy her father and uncle’s shares. Knowing how important it was to have the available funds to keep her succession plan in place, she was able to run Door County Hardware successfully.
The Transformation of Door County Hardware
Door County Hardware has changed immensely over time. Not only were four additions to the building made since the opening of the store in 1939, but the product lines have changed as well.
Door County Hardware began selling refrigerators, stoves, and other main home appliances, along with hardware goods. Later, the store sold sporting goods such as guns and fishing equipment.
And while some of those items aren’t in the store today, Door County Hardware sells just about every home improvement product you can think of including lawn, garden, electrical, plumbing, and paint equipment.
This store is a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind finds and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, Amy and her staff are there to assist you!
A Family Business You Can Trust
In an era of digital everything, Door County Hardware is there to answer the questions, carry things out to your car, and fill you in on all of the best places for Friday night fish.
When you’ve established yourself in the same location for the past 79 years with generations of family behind you, it’s a guarantee that Amy knows her stuff.
Thank you Amy and all of the Austad family for your commitment to Sturgeon Bay, Door County!
Visit Door County Hardware at 321 Jefferson St. in Sturgeon Bay for any home improvement needs or advice. Visit their website today!