Brothers buy Backus and Hackensack hardware stores
New owners are staying true to long history
HACKENSACK — In 1951, Kermit Zaffke and Art Reuck purchased Backus Hardware from Fay and Rita Coffland, cementing into local history a business that continues today under new ownership.
Today, the hardware businesses the Zaffke family once owned span not one, but two locations, including Hackensack Lumber and Hardware and Backus Lumber and Supply. On July 22, that tradition passed to brothers Dan Bryngelson and Larry Bryngelson, new owners of the two locations.
The purchase was largely inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dan had long worked in hospitality, managing restaurants and conference centers. During the height of the pandemic, Dan's job at the Doubletree in Bloomington took a big hit it has yet to recover from.
"We were just looking for something else to do and this popped up," Dan said. "It's been quite a learning experience ever since."
While things were going downhill, the brothers talked about going into business together. They didn't have any absolute plans for what kind of business, but they knew what they didn't want to get into.
"We weren't thinking restaurants," Dan said. "I know that so many things go wrong and trying to get help is difficult right now. We were thinking maybe gas stations or something like that."
Neither has worked in hardware, but both have management and building experience.
"Our mom had a kitchen and bath company," Larry said. "She was an architect, so we grew up around two homes and a cabin that she designed and built. We've been around construction sites and then she had her kitchen and bath company. I did a lot of hands-on work from time to time installing, demoing and ordering things like that. My biggest surprise is I didn't know how much I didn't know."
They had turned their eyes toward Hackensack because of the time they had spent in the area at the cabin that was in their family since the 1930s.
It was common for the two to make trips to the hardware store in Hackensack whenever they needed to do work on the cabin, so it was a place they were familiar with.
"We've been here for years and we loved the place," Dan said. "We've shopped here three times a weekend."
The pair are still learning new things, but the store seems like a good fit so far.
"I'm really finding I love this stuff," Dan said. "I really do like it besides supply issues. We make things come together. We do everything from screws to shingles and everything else. That's what we do. We do whole houses here, so it's a lot of fun."
The stores will continue to offer the same services and products as ever. If anything, that line of products and services is growing.
"We're doing hydraulic hoses now, which was not being done," Dan said. "We're adding a few things for the winter. We're going to build a bunch of sheds and stuff and maybe even an ice house or two in the Backus location to keep our guys busy when we slow down for the winter, which hasn't happened yet. It's been crazy."
"We just want to serve the area," Larry said. "We're not looking to make major changes, but if there are things people want or need, we're looking at that."
Compared to what they anticipated, there may be a little more to their new business venture than they had expected.
"For me the biggest surprise was all the working parts," Dan said. "it's very complicated and intricate."
"We knew they were busy, but the biggest surprise was how busy and steady it's been," Larry said.
They are dedicated to learn from the former owners, who knew what they were doing, and part of that is keeping the staff that was already there.
"We have a knowledgeable staff and a couple new employees," Larry said. "It's just been fantastic."
The communities in Hackensack and Backus have welcomed them wholeheartedly.
"It's been amazing," Dan said. "The store is such an integral part of the community and we didn't understand how much until now. Everyone's happy we're not changing it or messing with it or making it something else. They've been incredibly warm. We're kind of like celebrities."
"The number one thing we probably hear is, 'We're so glad you're keeping it a hardware store,'" Larry said. "We went around and asked what the old owners did in the community. We want to make sure we are doing that at a minimum, and we are looking for ways to give back in the future."
Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or email@example.com.