MERCER COUNTY Hardware store goes to seed and holds its own against chains

WEST MIDDLESEX, Pa. -- Mom-and-pop-style stores that survive and stay competitive against big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Lowes must adapt and find their niche in the market. Sereday's True Value Hardware and Feed has done just that.
Its niche? Birdseed, knowledge and a unique variety of items.
The store, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary this fall, sells pet supplies, nuts and bolts, paint, animal feed, vegetable seeds and duplicate keys among many other items. Brothers Ken and Gary Sereday own the shop on Garfield Avenue.
"Some of the people come in for odds and ends. A little bit of paint, a little bit of hardware," Ken Sereday said. "Just a little bit here and there."
Unique offerings
One of the Seredays' most popular and unique items is the customized birdseed they make. The store offers three kinds of birdseed. The mixtures of sunflower seeds, millet, cracked corn and saffron seed are designed around what customers report their birds prefer.
"It's amazing. Some people will say their birds like this and some people say they like that. Well, you can't argue with them, so we just developed three different kinds. We satisfy most of the people, we think," Sereday said.
He said the birdseed business has picked up considerably since the store first opened. Many senior citizens enjoy feeding their birds and provide a strong customer base for the store.
Another group of customers Sereday's caters to are the Amish. The store delivers a lot of horse feed to the Amish community, Sereday said.
Bigger competitors
Still, even with a steady feed business and a wide variety of items, times have been hard. Big-box retailers definitely hurt their business, he said.
"There's probably not a day passes that someone says, 'I hate that store' -- basically because they can't get the help they need," Sereday said of his much larger competitors.
He said he thinks Sereday's offers a more experienced, knowledgeable touch.
If a customer comes in to the store with a particular problem, oftentimes they don't know what they need to fix it. The store can sometimes help figure the whole job out. The bigger chain stores don't always offer that kind of help, he said.
It's the mixture of knowledge, variety and helpfulness that has kept the store open for so long.
"The hardware store wouldn't make it in this town by itself without the feed, I don't think. But it kind of works pretty good together," Sereday said.

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