The story of Slater’s Hardware starts in Lancaster, Ohio in the 1940s with Albert (Bob) and Henrietta Slater. In the decades prior, Bob Slater had worked hard to start several businesses in Lancaster, including a coal yard, concrete plant, and a small construction company. Around the end of World War II, he decided to sell the concrete and coal businesses, focusing solely on construction. Henrietta, having spent all waking hours of the day helping run the coal yard, now found herself home, alone, except for the company of two ornery young boys, Jon and Jim.
That didn’t last long… After a couple of months of trying to wrangle the boys, she told Bob that she wished to start a hardware store in Lancaster. When he asked why, she responded, “Because I have always wanted to, and I will.” Bob was very smart, and knew not to get in the way when Henrietta set her mind to something. He agreed to give her $10,000 (and not a penny more), provide the building, and build the fixtures, but assured her that under no circumstance would he ever work in the store. She agreed, and in 1946, the first Slater’s Hardware opened on 409 S. Maple Street in Lancaster, Ohio
Henrietta was tough, hardworking, and had the experience from her 20 years in the coal yard (and a few years as a teacher before that!) to run a successful business. The first customers became loyal patrons and good friends. Slater’s Hardware quickly gained the reputation as a place with great service and an almost infinite inventory, which was acquired from buying whole hardware stores at auction. “We have it, as long as we can find it!” quickly became our motto. After a few successful years at 409 South Maple Street, it was time to move to a larger store - 560 E Main Street (where the Good Housekeeping Shop is today).
Never having struggled with getting her point across, it became clear to Jon and Jim (now young adults) that “Ma” thought the company could use their help. So, after college, both returned to help run the hardware. Not long after, Henrietta purchased land on Memorial Drive. Today, we know this road as a main economic vein of Lancaster, but back then, it was considered the “outskirts” of town. Against some people’s better judgement, Henrietta decided to build another hardware at this location, and Jon and his bride-to-be Carol would run the store. In 1958, Jon and Carol tied the knot, and in 1959, Slater’s Hardware at 1141 North Memorial Drive opened to the public. The store was open from 8am - 9pm, Monday thru Saturday. For the first couple of months, there were no employees at the store, leaving and Jon and Carol to cover the 78 hour work-week together. Meanwhile, Jim Slater was learning the ropes of property management from his father, who had added a real estate management and development side to his construction business. Eventually, the two Slater’s Hardware stores merged into one on Memorial Drive.
As time went on, Jim and Jon started incorporating their personal interests into "departments" at the store. Jon, loving to tinker, started both the Lock Shop and the Lamp Shop. Around the time, Jim, fascinated by RC aircraft, started our locally famous hobby department. He even went so far to open an after-hours slot car track in the basement of the store! This blending of work and play has since become a staple of Slater's Hardware, and is still encouraged with all family members, even the younger ones.
Eventually, Henrietta passed the torch to Jon and Jim. Running the family business, it was all but impossible to separate family-life and work-life, so their children, their children's children, and now their children's children's children have grown up in the store. Today, Lou Ann and Steve (two of Jon’s children) and Jackie (Jim’s daughter) run Slater’s Inc. Proudly so, Landon (Steve’s eldest) and Nathan (Lou Ann’s eldest) also play pivotal roles at the store. Landon helps manage his dad’s Strength Dept., and Nathan manages his grandfather’s Lock Shop. If you stop by, you will even see the fifth generation of Slaters running around the store!
All said, we are very proud of our family’s history, and are thrilled to have been a part of the Lancaster community for the past 75 years. We hope to be here for at least 75 more!