Carol’s husband Mike, the 66-year-old owner and operator of the 53-year-old Columbus institution, agrees…. adding softly that the other secret is knowing when to keep your mouth shut. He then broke out into a wide smile.
The Perkerson family always seems to be smiling at their store and there always seem to be about five of them hanging around, ringing up customers, making keys, chatting with a customer or answering the always ringing phone. It may seem like a lot of staff for a small store, but according to Mike, they stay pretty busy and need all hands on deck.
In addition to Mike and Carol, their son Brad, 44, flits around the building tidying here and there and solving problems. He’s worked in the shop since he was five. Mike’s wife Renee runs part of her business, Joy’s Gifts and Flowers out of the store. Mike and Carol’s also have a daughter, Angie Perrigin. Between their children and their spouses, they also have four grandchildren: Clay, Rachael, Dale and Roxie.
The business was started by Mike’s parents, John and Ruth, on December 7, 1959. According to Mike, his father had a keen eye for business and started Military Hardware on Military Road when there weren’t any other businesses in that part of town.
“In fact,” he bragged. “There were about four hardware stores downtown at the time. We’re the only one left.”
When it started, the store specialized in garden supply and tools. They’ve since branched out into fertilizer, chemicals, mulch, and more.
“We do a lot of basic hardware, nuts, bolts, screws, plumbing, and electrical, and then during the growing season we get into the fertalizer and chemicals, and yard and garden tools,” he said.
“We also cater to the industry,” he continued. “The City and County try to buy from locally-owned shops — it keeps the money at home and it helps us. I think that’s what most people like to do is shop and buy local.”
Another member of the Military family is Donnell Lloyd, who has worked with the brood since he was five years old. Though he is now suffering from colon cancer, and can no longer work full time, Lloyd still hangs out around the shop and pitches in.
Brad’s son Dale, who is six-years-old, pitches in around the shop too. “He’s the fourth generation to work in the shop,” said Mike proudly.
“We’ve been blessed,” he said. “We’ve always gotten along real good, we try to be kind to each other and if we start to get tired, we take the afternoon off. We don’t have any harsh words up here, I don’t put up with it. We all do our thing then go home and rest up a little bit. We usually don’t talk that much at home.”
Carol said she and Mike will probably pass down the store to their children in “not too many years.” She said Mike will probably spend his retirement fishing at their farm in Macon while she volunteers and spoils the grandchildren.”
“We’ve just been so blessed to have the bussiness we have and have been able to hang around for 53 years. Iknow a lot of businesses that haven’t with the big box stores. Our thing is customer service. It doesn’t matter who you are or what walk of life you come from, we’re going to treat you the same. We also know our stock and know how to use it. We’ve seen a lot of people and families through the years…they’re more like friends than acquaintances or customers. They ‘re very special to us.”