Jackson celebrates 40 years of serving Red Oak
A staple of Red Oak’s downtown is celebrating a major milestone this month.
Red Oak Hardware Hank and Hallmark Cold Crown Store general manager Mark Jackson is celebrating 40 years of operation this year. A Business After Hours and a special K-Dog lunch were held at the store earlier this month.
Jackson said he arrived in Red Oak on May 9, 1983. He was traveling from Kansas City, Mo., where he had been manager of a small junior department store. Jackson said he was looking for a change.
“I did not like running retail in the city. I had been transferred there as a promotion from a store at Chillicothe, Mo. I loved it there, and I did really well, so they wanted to promote me to the city, and I was miserable there for almost a year. Then a manager position at the then True Value store became available. Prior to being a True Value, it had opened in the location as Thomsen-Bergren Hardware store in 1922,” Jackson said. “My then mother and father-in-law bought the store, and at the time they owned Seckington Hardware Store in Creston, which at the time was the size our hardware store is now. The store over here was a single storefront where Vial Insurance is located right now.”
Jackson said when he first started running the hardware store at it’s old location, it was a tight fit.
“We had a downstairs basement where Toyland and the sporting goods were, and the upstairs was tightly-packed 14 feet to the ceiling, had 30 inch aisles, and it was tight. We had lots of stuff in there. While it was not a very big store, we did pretty good in there, and tried to offer as much as we could,” Jackson explained.
Around two and a half years after he took over as general manager, Jackson said he and his then-wife were given the opportunity to purchase the store.
“My in-laws decided they didn’t want to own two stores anymore, and said if we wanted to keep running the store, we needed to purchase it from them, so we did, and we did pretty well as the new owners,” stated Jackson.
A few years after that, Jackson said his then-wife decided she didn’t want to run the hardware store, nor was she enamored with Red Oak. After splitting, she kept the house and Jackson kept the hardware store and the building. Still, they remained supportive.
“She was very nice about giving me the building, and my ex-wife and former in-laws have always been very supportive of everything we’ve tried to do here, because they’re a family from Creston with a hardware background and they wanted to see us succeed, so around 1988 is when I became the sole owner of the store,” Jackson commented.
Jackson said he met his second wife, Ann Carder, when she was a customer at the store. After dating others for around a year in the early 1990s, the two went out on a date themselves and hit it off as a couple. They’ve now been together for 33 years and married for the past 23 years, and Ann has also been supportive of the store.
“She’s always had her own careers over the years, but she’s always been a part of the business since we got together and has gone with me to the buying shows. While she hasn’t worked in the store directly, after she retired from being a pharmacist, she volunteers a lot, and still volunteers to help me by going to the buying shows with me,” Jackson said.
Additionally, Jackson’s daughter, Samantha, was raised in the hardware business and began working in the old store at the age of 8. Now her two daughters, Lily and Penny, 8 and 5 years old, help Grandpa in the store as the fifth generation.
Jackson said they didn’t get a chance to move to the current location at 315 E. Reed St. until 1998, when Randy and Angie Spangenburg decided they were going to get out of the clothing business and take on a new career.
“They were going to close their clothing business, and initially they tried to find someone to buy the business but were unable. After they ran a going-out-of-business sale. Randy and my wife Ann talked after Randy closed, and they talked me into the fact the location would work as a hardware store. I was convinced it wouldn’t, but they talked me into it. It’s one of the best things they ever talked me into. We operated in the prior location until April 1999, then we moved over here and reopened.”
Five years later, a restaurant next door closed, so Jackson purchased that building and expanded the location further. Five years after that, Amy Johnson’s Hair Clinic, which was the building further to the west also closed, so that building was purchased as well, and the expansions continued.
“We spent over a year renovating it and turned it into part of the hardware store where the appliances are, plumbing, and our rental department. Six years ago, we decided to run a Hallmark Gold Crown Store, but we couldn’t at the time due to the stipulations to become one,” Jackson advised. At that time, Bergren Jewelry next door had closed, so we decided to buy the building, renovate it, and open a store similar to a Hallmark Gold Crown. Halfway through that renovation, the guidelines for having a Hallmark Gold Crown Store in rural communities like Red Oak were revised, and we were able to open an actual Hallmark Gold Crown Store. That was only available for three or five years, and doesn’t exist anymore, but because we signed up when we did, we have been allowed to continue and move forward, which we’re very thankful for. It’s worked out really well for us.”
The store was True Value when Jackson took it over and stayed as True Value for another 20 years after he took over. Jackson said they stayed with True Value for about five years after they opened a second location near Hy-Vee, but eventually Jackson felt it was time for a change.
“We looked around at a lot of different outfits, like Ace Hardware. The best fit for us in the Midwest seemed to be Hardware Hank. Their corporate name, United Hardware, supplies all the Hardware Hank stores. We signed the contract with Hardware Hank in November 2004, and the change officially took place at the end of January 2005. That’s been one of the best things we’ve ever done. Over the past 18 years, we’ve expanded seven times, so it’s been very good for us, and United Hardware and Hardware Hank have been very supportive of everything we’re trying to do, and they’ve been very good to us,” advised Jackson.
Jackson said he’s also done everything he can to give back to the community whenever he can. Being a locally-owned business has given him the ability to do so.
“In the early days when we were trying to build up our business, we didn’t have as many resources, so my wife at the time and I volunteered a lot. Ann and her family have always been big on giving back to the community. When Ann and I became a couple, we have been trying to increase how we give back to the community as our resources got better,” Jackson said. “We feel that we owe a debt of gratitude to the community and our friends and neighbors who supported us, so why wouldn’t we be supporting all the things that are important to them? And the support isn’t limited to money. If anyone is running a fundraiser, we’re certainly come up with merchandise for a raffle or prize drawing. We are very appreciative that the community of Red Oak, Montgomery County, and the surrounding Southwest Iowa area have supported us.”
Jackson said the most rewarding part of his job now is the same as it was when he first started: people.
“When I first started in retail, I didn’t know why I liked it so much. Now that I’ve done it all this time I’ve had time to reflect on it a lot. What I’ve discovered is that I like people. I like being around people. This enables me to be around people and help them. My wife and daughter mentioned that maybe I should think about retiring, but I love what I’m doing, and I plan on doing it for a lot longer. I don’t work as many hours in the store as I used to when I first started, but I’m still working full-time. I plan on doing it for another 40 years if I can, and with luck, be joined by the granddaughters down the road,” Jackson explained.
Jackson also expressed his deep appreciation for all the support he’s gotten since he first started his tenure in Red Oak 40 years ago.
“The biggest thing I can say is thank you to our friends, neighbors, and customers past, present, and future, for supporting and appreciating what we do. Without all of them, we couldn’t have done any of this. We appreciate you from the bottom of our hearts.”