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Small-town store with a ‘lot of everything’ to close PDF Print E-mail
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Written by MITCH MAERSCH   
Wednesday, 27 September 2017 16:53

Belgium Hardware and Beverage is selling off an eclectic inventory that ranges from nuts and bolts to liquor after more than 39 years in business

From a brake light to a can of Sprite and tin foil to motor oil, almost anything can be found at Belgium Hardware and Beverage.
“I have more than just a little bit of everything. I have a lot of everything,” owner Richard Uselding said.
Uselding has run the store since he bought it in March of 1978, after working 20 years at Krier Implement Co. in the village, now the location of How-Dea Service Center.
“I decided this was an opportunity,” Uselding said.
He took full advantage of his purchase. The store became a staple in the community, and about 20 years ago Uselding found a way to add a unique product line. He bought out a local liquor store’s inventory and moved it to his hardware store. The “and beverage” portion of the business was born, and along with it came more customers.
But, Uselding said, customers still just look for their niche items.
“You would think somebody would come in and buy a can of paint and bottle of wine, but they don’t,” he said.
Not enough customers have been coming in during recent times, causing Uselding to begin closing down the store after 39 years in business. He said he isn’t sure if it was online sales, big-box stores or something else that hurt the most.
Recently, he said, Belgium’s Main Street reconstruction project has slowed sales. The first phase of the work is being done to the east of the store at 756 Main St., forcing customers to take a detour route.
Next year, Uselding said business would further dissipate when the road directly in front of his store is scheduled to be redone.
Last week, Uselding took a little time to reflect on his nearly four decades of store ownership. His favorite part has been greeting people and serving the community.
“I enjoy that. If I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, I wouldn’t have been here 39 years,” he said. “I built it up to the service and inventory we now have. The efforts I put in were rewarding to me and my family.”
He spent much of that time working with his family. All three of Uselding’s daughters worked at the store growing up, and two stuck with it.
“It’s always a challenge,” Uselding said of working side-by-side with his daughters, “but I’ve learned to accept that and work with it.”
Anne Uselding has worked for her father for more than 33 years.
“It has been amazing,” she said. “I have learned to do everything because he knows how to do everything.”
That level of experience has made some tasks easier. The staff doesn’t even take inventory.
“We don’t have to. We know what is here,” Anne said. “I can tell you where everything is in that store in the dark.”
Rich said he couldn’t pick out customers’ favorite item.
“It’s so diversified,” he said, adding someone comes in for a part for a sump pump and another gets spray paint.
Indeed, aisles of the 4,000-square-foot building are packed to the gills. A pizza cutter and other kitchen tools are hanging several feet across from small fire extinguishers, perhaps in case the cooking doesn’t go so well.
Some of the inventory shows the store’s age. A stereo adapter that allows cassettes to play on an 8-track player is available, as are blank VHS tapes.
Before this year’s annual village-wide rummage sale in May, Anne found two boxes of the old lawn game Jarts. They were listed for $6.99 each. She sold each box for $75 at the sale.
Anne said the store survived by meeting customers’ needs.
“We always try to go with the flow and have what people wanted,” she said.
Anne said she enjoyed “just getting to know everybody and the friends I made” while working at the store.
“I enjoy this. I really do. I love my job. I don’t want it to be over. We’ve put our heart and soul into this,” she said.
The store is holding a liquidation sale and plans to close when the inventory is gone.
“An established business that has served the community for 39 years will definitely be missed. As a Belgium Area Chamber of Commerce member, it will be hard to lose an active and valued member,” Belgium Chamber of Commerce President Ann Noster said, also noting Rich Uselding’s hours of volunteer work with the Chamber and other community organizations.
In retirement, Rich said he plans to spend time with his wife, a retired nurse from Columbia St. Mary’s Ozaukee Hospital,  his children and grandchildren.

 
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