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West Virginia hardware stores dealing with supply chain disruptions, still navigating through pandemic | WV News

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WV News) — As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, local hardware stores continue to feel its effects, even as they try to maintain operations as best they can.

At Marsh Hardware and Builder Supply in Clarksburg’s Rose Bud Plaza, owner Chuck Kersting said supply chain disruptions are still ongoing.

“There’s a number of items, basic stuff we like to keep in stock, that have not been available, and my supplier is telling me that’s due to the (pandemic),” he said.

A few items that have been harder to get lately are sandpaper, staples and staple guns.

“It’s real basic stuff that I don’t understand why there’s a shortage, but there definitely is a shortage,” he said.

The staple gun situation has proven to be a real issue, he said, not because the store sells a large quantity of them, but because they are an item that sells regularly.

“(The shortage) wasn’t immediately when the pandemic hit; it was probably in the middle of summer. It really affected me in the fall and winter because people use staple guns for putting up Christmas decorations,” he said.

“A lot of people come looking for them to put up Christmas decorations, and I didn’t have them. It’s just really frustrating because I don’t know why. I don’t know whether the factories shut down, if there’s increased demand for it. I really don’t know why,” he said.

Guns and ammunitions also are hard to keep in stock, he indicated.

“There’s a real shortage going on. … I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, when they had the rioting or because they are afraid that when the Democrats get in charge, they will try to limit or take away the Second Amendment rights. I don’t know, but there’s been a lot of panic buying of guns and ammunition and it’s caused shortages for me. … It has definitely affected my business,” he said.

Kersting said the store did notice an influx in customers during the first round of stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits that resulted from the CARES Act.

“A lot of people paid with their WorkForce credit card, which is the unemployment benefits, so I did see an increase in those types of charges,” he said.

Those spending that money at the store helped support the business, he said.

At Sandy’s True Value Hardware & Home Center, co-owner Dave Christafore said business has been slow throughout the pandemic but has held up.

“The pandemic, I don’t think, hurt us that much over the last past year. Business has been pretty good. When the virus first came out, we had a hard time getting treated lumber, we had a hard time even getting spruce lumber for building houses,” Christafore said.

“But right now, I think everybody is caught up because when the virus came out, a lot of people weren’t working and that’s what set everybody behind. So I’m still having problems getting some stuff from True Value, some cleaning supplies and painting supplies (etc.) but it’s getting better,” he said.

During the initial shutdown, Christafore said the store experienced a welcomed influx of business.

“When a lot of the things were shut down, people started working on their houses and working on the inside of their houses. We did see a good bit of influx in customers and a good turnout; a lot more people than we had before,” he said.

Sandy’s, he said, is more than the average hardware store.

“We basically carry anything you need for home. We carry lumber, drywall and plumbing, heating (equipment), heating stoves, nuts, bolts, salt for treating roads, snow shovels, mailboxes, (etc.). We basically carry almost everything but in a smaller volume than the bigger stores,” he said.

To help compete with the bigger retail centers, keeping prices low and carrying specialty items plays a big part in keeping customers coming back.

“We’ve been here for a long time, 40 years, and you know how we compete is we keep our prices pretty close to the chain stores and sometimes our prices are a little bit better. That’s the main thing, to keep your prices where you compete, so that’s basically what we do (and) we do offer a lot of items the chain stores don’t have… People come here because they know Sandy’s has it and nobody else will have it,” he said.

At the Jane Lew Home Center, Manager Chad Butcher said the store also experienced supply chain disruptions on “just about everything,” especially lumber and building supplies.

At the start of the pandemic, he said there was a noticeable uptick in customers, coming in to complete home projects and other to do list items.

What keeps individuals coming back, even during pandemic times, is that the Jane Lew Home Center is a hometown place with better customer service than bigger retailers, he said.

“We try to go the extra mile to get people what they want,” he said.

{span}Staff writer Steven Baublitz can be reached at (304)626-1404 or sbaublitz@theet.com.{/span}

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