In a world full of big-box home improvement chains, it's nice to see places like Plaza Hardware thriving in our community.
This small mom and pop hardware store has been around for 30 years in Ahwatukee. Although, they've changed locations over the years as the community has grown, Karilyn and Leonard Branstetter have continued to operate the business together with hard work, honesty, and four, sometimes five, part-time employees.
The couple started next to Millie's Hallmark on Elliot Road, near 51st Street, and eventually moved into the space that Trader Joe's now occupies off Chandler Boulevard. When Trader Joe's wanted to move in there, they moved to the much smaller location they're in now just a few store fronts down. They had to make their shelves a little taller and stop carrying some cement, but they made it work. They just wanted to stay in the community.
"We both love it," Karilyn said. She and Leonard estimate he's installed more than 6,000 pool motors in Ahwatukee in 30 years, and they know many of their customers on a first-name basis.
"We're still a small shop and people like that," Karilyn added.
The couple happily shared one experience of when the community stood up for them when they were in their last location at 4025 E. Chandler Blvd. They've always flown an American flag outside their store, and one day the landlord asked them to take it down because they had received a complaint. Leonard put a sign in the window that said: "The landlord wants us to take the flag down. What do you think?" The community wrote so many letters and made so many calls the landlord changed their mind.
"That was something else," Leonard said. "We've flown the flag daily for 30 years now."
Leonard says they've been able to stay in business because they try to be honest, they make sure people are satisfied with the best equipment, or at least a good referral, and they've been blessed with good employees.
Bill Brooks, an employee since 1994, said he's stayed with the company because of the good people and good working conditions.
The couple isn't sure if they've owned their shop longer than anyone else in Ahwatukee, but they believe they're one of the oldest retail shops in the area, and even after 30 years in business they don't plan on going anywhere.
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