Longtime Alton, Kansas businessman Wayne E. Hartzler was born October 6, 1916, to Peter and Alma (Funk) Hartzler. Wayne operated a dairy when he decided to try something new. With his two brothers the Hartzler Bros. hardware store was opened in Alton in the spring of 1946. Later the name was changed to Hartzler’s Store. In 1975 son Eldon joined the family business, which in 2012 celebrates 66 years of serving the Alton area.
The following was written by Wayne Hartzler, with help from his lifelong partner and wife, Asa.
“After operating a dairy in Osborne for several years, I decided I didn’t want to milk cows the rest of my life. In the fall of 1945 I sold the dairy and spent the winter looking for a farm to move on. My brothers, Harold and Wilbur, operated a hardware in Woodston, and a number of people from theAltoncommunity wanted them to open a store in Alton. They asked me if I wanted to join them to open a store in Alton, which I did.
In the early part of 1946 we purchased the building where the store is at now [the 1874 native stone Smith Building, then located in the southwest corner of the intersection of Mill & Nicholas; the building burned down in the late 2000’s]. Mrs. Elsie Johnston had a cafe in the north part of the building. We told her she could use it as long as she operated the cafe.
It took several months to get the south part ready. The rock wall on the back had crumbled and the roof was on the ground.
Opening day was in the spring of 1946. It was shortly after the war and a number of things were scarce. Our suppliers furnished us with small appliances, teakettles, and hard to find things.
On opening day we let people sign up for articles they wanted. Then we had a drawing to see who would get to buy them. For the next year or so people signed up for washers, dryers and refrigerators. We would sell from the top of the list.
A and B Battery Packs were big business as there was very little electricity in the country. When REA started coming to the rural areas, people started trading their gasoline irons for electric. Some of the first things people wanted were electric pumps and running water for the house. Next were bathrooms.
We put up a large light fixture display from the ceiling. One switch would turn on the display at one time. One lady came in to pick out a fixture for her house, so I turned the display on. She just looked at it for awhile and finally said, “It’s nice, but I don’t know where I’d put it.”
Alvin Welker clerked in the store when we first opened. When we started doing more service work, Vein Eaton was hired. In 1950 Forrest Stanfield started working. He worked until he retired, over 30 years. Lucille Stanfield worked a number of years also.
From the beginning we sold Skelgas butane and propane. For advertising Hartzler’s and Skelgas furnished the Little League Baseball team with advertising uniforms.
Raymond Sprick drove our transport truck many years. He passed awayMarch 17, 1975, while on the job.
The Boland’s, Carl, Jerry and Elmer, all worked as delivery men. Elmer started working in 1952 and is still with us.
Eldon came home from college in 1975 to take Raymond’s place. Wayne sold out to Eldon January 1, 1982.
It was a short time after Wilbur’s death that the name was changed from Hartzler Brothers to Hartzler’s Store.”
Although Wayne“retired” when he sold the store to his son, he often afterwards could still be found working there, an Alton inspiration for all.
Wayne E. Hartzler died on Sunday, March 25, 2012, and was laid to rest in the Sumner Cemetery at Alton next to his wife Alsa, who passed away in 2006.