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Hardware store closing in Estes Park after 18 years

ESTES PARK – A “retirement sale” got underway Friday at a popular hardware and general store in the Stanley Village Shopping Center.

Owner Bill Prohs said this week that the 10,000-square-foot TrueValue Hardware store at 461 E. Wonderview Ave. would mark its inventory down 10% to 30% beginning Friday.

“I’ve been at it for 18 years,” Prohs said. “I’ll be 76 soon, so it’s time. It was a tough call.”

He said he had “no idea” when the store would finally close its doors. “It could go through the end of October. It just depends on when we sell everything.”

Around 15 full- and part-time employees work in the store as a whole at any given time, he said.

Prohs characterized the store as “more of a general store, a mini Walmart.”

Besides a hardware store’s usual array of building supplies, tools, paint, plumbing and electrical parts, lawn and garden products and home goods, it also sells sporting goods, barbecue grills, fishing and camping supplies and gifts.

And then there’s the electronics.

The TrueValue store is unusual in that its northwest corner contains a RadioShack, a once iconic national brand that once operated many retail stores around the country but fell on hard times toward the end of the 1990s. RadioShack now operates primarily as an e-commerce website, but also includes a network of independently owned and franchised stores — including the one inside the TrueValue.

“It was a franchise we bought,” Prohs said. “When RadioShack changed hands, we were allowed to keep the brand. There’s not many of us left.”

Greeley-based Wheeler Management Group, which owns the shopping center, had not returned calls seeking information about what sort of retailer might move into the space by BizWest’s afternoon deadline, but Prohs said he’s had some nibbles.

“We’ve had a lot of tire-kickers, but most of them wanted to run the store remotely, which just wouldn’t work up here,” he said. “It’s a mom-and-pop store, and you really have to be here.”

Most of those who expressed interest, he said, didn’t have experience managing such a retailer and thus “usually couldn’t get a loan. Banks are reluctant to give a loan to someone without experience.”

What Prohs will remember most, he said, is opening the store in 2005 with his family. “It was quite a challenge for us because we’d never been in retail before.”

Prohs said his retirement plans include joining his granddaughter and her husband in September 2024 on a 176-mile hike across Portugal and Spain to recreate the pilgrimage of St. James the Apostle, a trek he said has gone on for more than 1,000 years.

“I’m ready for it, too,” he said.

But that long walk will follow what Prohs said has been “a great run” at the store.

“We made so many friends,” he said. “We love the local people here. This is a very close-knit town. People watch out for each other. So it’s really bittersweet for me. It’s kind of tough walking away from it.”

Source: BizWest