From groceries to hardware, Mike and Don Nena have made quality service a household name.
In the early years spent working beside their father at a food, hardware and liquor store in East Peoria, Mike and Don garnered the knowledge they would need to run their own business.
“My brother and I grew up in East Peoria,” says Don. “My father, Floyd, and my uncle, Jay Draksler, worked as partners at Floyd’s Grocery beginning in 1956.” Following Floyd’s death in 1974, Mike and Don sold their half of the store to their uncle and opened up a True Value hardware store at 1415 West Forrest Hill Avenue in Peoria.
“A guy named Joel Stevens, a field rep from True Value, found us a location and financing when things were tight and interest rates were high,” says Mike. “He was very instrumental for our startup.”
Getting Off the Ground
Despite the excitement of beginning a business venture, the first few months in business proved challenging. According to Mike, the brothers worked an average of 16 hours a day for two years without vacation time, opening the store at 8am and closing at 9pm during the week.
But even before the store officially opened, Mike and Don had to work through the tough process of moving in the merchandise. “The winter of 1978 was rough,” says Mike. “We had a lot of snow, which made it hard to get our building built on time. We were supposed to have moved into our building in April of the following year, but we didn’t move in until September. We had ordered all of our spring merchandise, and we had to rent semis to store all our products.”
“It took us two to three years to get well-established,” says Don. “Like any new business, it takes time to establish yourself.”
Mike claims that by the third year, “everything just started clickin’. We started making money, and we stayed in business,” he says. In 2002, the brothers changed from True Value to Do It Best Hardware.
A Family Name
Mike notes there are perks to working with family. “There’s definitely more trust,” he says. “As with any family, you have your ups and downs. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for us.”
“As long as you’re agreeable with everyone, [it’s easy to work with family],” adds Don.
Mike and Don’s mutual interest in retail and hardware contributes to the sense of camaraderie the brothers share in the workplace. “[Hardware is] what we know,” says Mike. “We enjoy retail and merchandising. We like to help people solve their problems.”
A Different Type of Business
Over the years, Don and Mike have worked together to create a different type of hardware store that customers can appreciate and recognize. Since the early 1980s, the 12,000-square-foot retail area has evolved from stocking toys, small appliances and sporting goods to selling basic hardware and electrical equipment, paint, plumbing, tools, lawn and garden products, and outdoor furniture.
“Customers really like us because we offer a complete line of hardware products and a wide variety of services,” says Don. “Customers know they will always get the help they need here.”
“We’ve built up a good reputation with our customers for being a quality business,” adds Mike. “In the beginning, other hardware stores closed early on weekdays and weekends, while we stayed open late. We have the right products, the knowledge, and the service skills. We’ve been here a long time. Customers know we’re dependable.“ iBi