Contributed photo

Isdahl’s hardware store closes after 47 years of business 

The Isdahls have owned and operated their small-town business since the 1970s. Pictured are Linda and Al Isdahl.

By Celeste Rapp

Al and Linda Isdahl have owned and operated their hardware store in downtown Starbuck for 47 years.

Al Isdahl was a teacher in Hancock for four years before deciding that he wanted a career change. He wanted to get into sales, so he went on the road as a salesperson. After five years as a traveling salesperson, Al decided that he didn’t want to do that anymore; he had a son at home and it was hard for him to be away from his family. So, Al decided that he would like to open a store and happened to find their building by chance, and for a good price too.

In 1973, the Isdahls purchased the building that would become what Starbuck natives know as the local hardware store. At the time, the building held a Coast to Coast hardware store and Al Isdahl convinced Coast to Coast to let them try their hand at operating the store. He had worked at a Coast to Coast store part-time when he was in high school in Willmar, so he knew the ropes of the business.

Coast to Coast allowed the Isdahls to continue to operate the business under the name of Isdahl’s Coast to Coast. The store remained a Coast to Coast store until the 90s, when it became Isdahl’s Hardware Hank.

The store has evolved over the years, not just in its name. First starting strictly as a hardware store, the Isdahls expanded their store to include appliances and then they got into repairs and service. Now, although blue tape surrounds the store, signifying the end of an era, it’s easy to imagine the store at its prime.

Linda helped with the store for the first 20 years and then decided it was time to have her own career change and she started working at Knute Nelson.

Al decided it was time to retire; he’s 49 he says, actually 79, and has had a lot of great years with the hardware store. Al and Linda made a lot of memories in the store, but their favorite part was just visiting with the customers. “When we first came, the old timers, they’d be talking Norwegian and I’d always tease them and say are you guys talking about me and they’d say no, we’re talking about our crops,” Linda recalled about the early days of the store.

Time and societal changes haven’t made it easy on Al and Linda; they find more and more competitors every day, especially with the biggest online retailer Amazon. They’ve found that more and more generations are turning to their computers to shop than interacting with small-town business owners. 

The Isdahls never let the ever-changing shopping culture get to them, they kept on with their business and always had those loyal customers who would visit them, have some coffee and chat about their lives with the business owners. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, where people can have a break by sitting down, said Al. “It’s not like the big box stores where you can’t find anywhere to sit and you have to wait in line for 15 minutes,” he stated.

Now that they’ve sold the store, which officially turns over to the new owner on January 1, the Isdahls are just thankful for the many years they spent in Starbuck and their many loyal customers. Al said that him and his wife love the area and said they wanted to thank their customers for the many years of good business. “We just want to thank them for being good customers, they were great… it’s just been a wonderful experience.”