4th generation continues 80 years of family tradition at SW Wisconsin business

Hermsen’s Ace Hardware and Home Center

Founded: 1942

Address: 447 Canal St., Bloomington, Wis.

Employees: 22

Hardware store hours: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; Closed Sundays

Home center hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon; Closed Sundays

Phone: 608-994-2707

Online: hermsens.com

BLOOMINGTON, Wis. — A southwest Wisconsin business owned for more than 80 years by the same family prides itself on being a one-stop shop for the home.

Hermsen’s Ace Hardware and Home Center in Bloomington features a fully stocked hardware store, an HVAC business, a plumbing business and a separate store on the same block of the street selling appliances, flooring, cabinets and other items.

“It’s like three different businesses all in one — the plumbing, the hardware store and the home center — and they all complement each other,” said co-owner Jessica Hermsen.

Jessica and her husband, David Hermsen, represent the fourth generation that has owned and operated the business. The Hermsen story begins with David’s great-grandfather Edward Hermsen, who purchased the hardware store on Bloomington’s Canal Street in 1942.

The store has remained in the family’s hands throughout the following decades.

Two of Edward’s sons, Roy and Al, purchased the store in 1953. Roy’s son, Dan Hermsen, purchased the store in 1979, when Al Hermsen retired.

David is Dan’s son. David and Jessica became co-owners with Dan in 2014. David said he was always sure of his career path as a kid.

“I looked at my family’s history and knew this was the route I was going to take,” David said. “This is what I wanted to do.”

The hardware store and the home center — located two doors down on Canal Street — occupy part of a block of buildings dating to the 19th century.

The hardware store is fronted by a bright, red-and-white façade. Walking onto the main floor of the hardware store can seem like stepping back in time, with scales to weigh bolts and screws, markings on the wooden floors to measure rope lengths, a checkout desk in the middle of the store and decorative tin ceilings above.

Below the ceiling, hundreds of shelves are packed with thousands of items. Shelves of items fill virtually every available space — including areas below stairwells.

“I have people who tell me, ‘If Hermsen’s doesn’t have it, we probably don’t need it,’” Jessica said. “We’re full of inventory. We reshelved everything in the last eight years and brought in new product lines.”

Hermsen’s has 22 employees, some with more than 30 years of experience. Staff members pride themselves on knowing exactly where to find items.

“Our staff does an incredible job of keeping the store well-stocked and organized,” Jessica said.

Plumbing orders line a desk in an office at the hardware store, and that side of the business keeps staff busy.

“The plumbing business is really our core business,” Jessica said. “We have six guys in our plumbing-and-heating division. We have a closet full of old plumbing fixtures. You never know when someone might come in with a faucet that is 40 years old, and we might have one that matches.”

Hermsen’s plumbing business serves customers as far as 40 minutes from Bloomington, including Potosi and Platteville.

David is a fourth-generation master plumber.

“I’m very proud we could keep (Hermsen’s) going as a hardware store and plumbing business,” he said.

He said the combination is becoming less common in modern times.

“It used to be that every plumbing business was born out of a hardware store, but there aren’t that many left (that combine the two),” he said.

The family purchased the home center building in the early 1990s.

“The home center started as a flooring and furniture store,” Jessica said. “Roughly 13 years ago, we decided to phase out furniture and expand our services to include countertops, cabinets, window treatments, appliances and a larger flooring selection.”

Hermsen’s also includes a storage building across Canal Street and four buildings behind the hardware store and home center include warehouses containing flooring and trucks and backhoes.

Jessica said online shopping poses a challenge to smalltown hardware stores in general.

“People have things at their fingertips like they never had before,” she said. “But it all comes back to service for our customers. People can order online (from the Ace Hardware website) and pick it up in the store or we can deliver. We can put a grill together and deliver it to (a customer’s) home or install appliances. Those are things we have always done.”

Jessica said other challenges facing the business include workforce issues, notably the demand for skilled workers as members of the baby boomer generation retire and fewer people enter the plumbing and heating trades.

“We have employees who are hard-working and loyal to us, and having them here for so long is a huge blessing,” Jessica said of meeting the workforce challenge.

Jessica credits dedicated employees and loyal customers for enabling Hermsen’s to maintain its diversified business for more than 80 years.

“We know most of our customers,” she said. “We have done work for generations of people.”