ALLIE DOUGLASS | The Sun
Hank Brothers True Value Hardware is shown on Friday on the Southside of Paducah. The Hank family has been in business for 116.
It has been 116 years since brothers Gus and Harry Hank opened their first hardware store, and fourth generation owners Jimmy and Chuck Hank aren’t messing with that recipe for success.
Jimmy Hank’s great-grandfather and great-great uncle founded Hank Brothers & Jones in 1897 after deciding to leave their jobs at another local hardware store, and team with a partner to begin their business.
After Jones passed away, the store was known as Hank Brothers Hardware. Specializing in hardware, tools, leather goods, stones and more the store on 212 Broadway thrived. Most of their materials would come in small truck loads or off the river from cities like Louisville after placing orders with “jobbers,” or traveling salesmen.
Jimmy Hank, owner of Hank Brothers True Value’s southside location, recalls working in and visiting the store with his brother Chuck while his father Ed was running the store. “Sometimes we would go to work with dad and help out around the store, and other times we would do anything but work and play too much,” Hank said. “But it was always really cool growing up around a family business.”
After attending college, Jimmy at the University of Kentucky and Chuck at David Lipscomb University, the brothers returned to help their father, who had grown ill, and take over the family business. By that time the hardware store had made ties with the True Value name, which was added to the title.
“I really wasn’t sure about coming back to Paducah and to the business at that time, but when my father got sick I knew it was the right time for me to come back and help out,” Hank said.
In 1981 Jimmy Hank took over and became president of the Hank Brothers brand, running all three locations. The Lone Oak, Southside and Broadway stores continued to bring in revenue steadily even when large chain stores started moving into town.
Jimmy passed the family reigns to Chuck in 2005, making him the president of the two businesses, after the Broadway location had closed. But even with the Hank Brothers name doing better than ever, Jimmy Hank can appreciate the hard time for the company as well as his grandfather told him.
“In the late ’30s when my grandfather Gus Hank Jr. was running the store with his father, there was a depression going on and nobody had jobs to give,” Hank said.
He also recalls the flood of 1937 that left the Broadway store with eight feet of water, founder Gus Hank died in 1938, their warehouse soon after burned, and World War II arrived.
“Within a five-year span Hank Brothers endured a depression, and death, a fire and a war. If we can survive that then surely we can survive anything,” Hank said.
Throughout all the trials the business has experienced, Jimmy Hank looks back on his career with a smile.
“The best part for me has been giving and creating jobs for people as well as taking care of the customers. During the ice storm a few years ago we helped people stay warm, we help people fix things and that gives you a great sense of accomplishment.”