EGG HARBOR CITY - Walk through the front doors of the Lynkris Hometown Hardware store and you soon realize why owner and operator Joe Fondacaro says, “there’s a big difference.”
The Egg Harbor City institution has offered home and hardware products for homeowners, contractors and do-it-yourself handymen since the days when President Dwight D. Eisenhower sat in the White House and the Ford Crown Victoria was introduced.
“There’s always been a hardware store here at this spot since the mid-1950s,” said Fondacaro, 50, who grew up in nearby Hammonton.
Fondacaro graduated from Hammonton High School before earning a business degree from Rowan University.
“I even worked at the local hardware store when I was in high school,” he said with an inviting smile. “Now, I own it.”
Sidney Campagna opened and operated the hardware store for the first 32 years, before he sold it to his son, Fondacaro said. Fondacaro bought the business in 1997.
Fondacaro will celebrate the 11th anniversary of his Hammonton store on June 15 and the 15th anniversary of owning his Egg Harbor City store on July 29.
“We were True Value to take advantage of that company’s $2 billion in buying power,” he said. However, four years ago, Fondacaro changed his mind when the Pro Group Inc. offered the benefits of $3 billion in buying power.
Fondacaro said he couldn’t pass on the opportunity.
“What it means is that we have the buying power of a large company,” Fondacaro said.
But, he said, he also has the convenience and experience that only a hometown hardware store can offer.
“And that’s the big difference,” he said. “Between me and (City Councilman) Pat Moran we have more than 80 years of experience.”
And that’s 80 years of finding the right part and asking the right questions when customers come in.
An elderly gentleman enters the store and asks for two-cycle engine oil. Fondacaro takes the time to ask him a few questions and two minutes later the man leaves with a smile on his face, eager to tackle his home project.
“You won’t get that at the other store,” he said. “We take the time to find out all of the information.”
Though Fondacaro doesn’t have a multi-million dollar advertising budget that includes logos on the side of NASCAR race cars, he said he can compete against the big boys of the hardware retail world.
“Our prices are comparable and in some cases lower,” he said. “Besides, who wants to waste a gallon of gasoline to drive half and hour to get something they can get right here?”
Convenience is important to the weekend handyman who doesn’t have a lot of time to go driving all over they place to get the tools he needs, Fondacaro said.
“You don’t have to walk a football field to get from your car to the store,” he said. “You can park right out front, get what you need and get back to work.”
Like the hardware stores of yesteryear, Fondacaro’s offerings seem to include everything under the sun from ice cream to generators, Trek bicycles to electric power washers and cooking grills to hand tools.
Fondacaro said he is proud of the Pittsburgh Paints line he recently introduced to his customers.
“It’s a good quality paint that comes at a good price,” he said.
Between his two stores, Fondacaro also offers small engine repair, a saw sharpening service, vacuum cleaner repairs, key-making and bicycle repairs, he said.
It all began when a customer came in and asked, “Can you fix this?” he said.
And having a small town store offers other advantages to customers, he said.
“When you come in you get to talk to the manager and the owner because it’s me,” he said. “Try getting to a manager at one of the big stores if you have a problem. You will, but it takes a long time.”
But not at Lynkris Hometown Hardware where you’ll find Fondacaro at the register or in the aisle talking to customers or putting up stock.
“Owning two stores has advantages also,” Fondacaro said. “Last week I had a customer that needed more than four cans of stain. We only had four cans at our Hammonton store, but we had more here. So he was able to get all of the stain he needed.”
Like the big store hardware retailers, Fondacaro offers contractor and large order discounts. He will also custom order items he may not normally carry in stock.
Fondacaro said his business has been successful.
“I think my business has been a success because we’ve made it through one of the worst recessions in history,” he said. “And we are still here.”
Lynkris Hometown Hardware is open 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays.
The phone number is (609) 965-0815.
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