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A Duluth tradition: Daugherty's Hardware

DCN Reporter

Snow falls gently upon the roof of Daugherty’s Hardware and Appliance in the same way it has every year for the past century.

Many are familiar with this large, family-owned hardware store. It is difficult to miss the gray and blue building which proudly proclaims the name of the original owner: Daugherty.

Although this name is often associated with this store in Duluth, many do not know the origins of this name or how deeply it is embedded in Duluth’s history.

“I just know that it’s been here a long time,? said Sharon Carlson, a customer at Daugherty’s.

“The name has probably been here 90 years,? said employee Mark Johnson while he gazed out the window at the old Daugherty building on Fourth Street.

Near the turn of the century, a Duluth dredge operator named Lewis K. Daugherty began the business we know today as Daugherty’s Hardware and Appliance.

However, in 1894 the store carried items appropriate to the time period, such as tin ware and building materials.

Lewis nurtured the growing business until his son Bertine J. Daugherty took command of the shop. Previous to his ownership at the hardware store, Bertine made a living as a real estate salesman.

The shop, which was located at 516 E. Fourth St. was not only a business but also functioned as Bertine’s home.

Daugherty Bldg.JPG
The first Daugherty's building as it looks today on Fourth Street. (Photo by Jeremy Pieper)

Although it was his business, his home and carried his surname, Bertine sold Daugherty’s to Martin E. Olson in the 1930s.

Olson had previously worked as a general manager at the Marshall-Wells Company in Duluth. This company was a wholesaler of hardware, appliances and industrial supplies, which gave Olson the experience he needed to run a successful hardware store.

In the 1960s, Daugherty’s was again passed along, this time to Robert Lundberg and eventually his son, Terry. This shift in ownership was a harbinger for change for the previously small business.

Daugherty’s quickly began to expand when an adjacent building was leased to make room for a three-story section of appliances. The choice to expand was a result of successful business received by the Lundbergs.

In 1976, Daugherty’s moved across the street to the store those who live in Duluth today know and love.

When the store opened its brand new doors, it offered customers over 20,000 items as well as 25,000 square feet of warehouse; an enormous growth compared to the store’s meager beginnings in the early 1900s.

In a final change of control of the store, Scott Lundberg became owner in 1990 and works there to this day assisting customers with a proud look upon his face.

His business’s extensive history is not merely a memory, but a valuable asset to his ever growing business.

“Customers see we’ve been here a long time and see we’ve been established,? said Lundberg.

Most visitors to the store are not aware of the specifics of the business’ history, but do know that it has been around for quite some time.

This proves to be beneficial to the hardware store.

“I shop here because I like to support local business,? said Carlson.

To some, it is important that a business have roots within its community.

“It’s a generation after generation kind of a thing,? said Dick Taival, a customer of Daugherty’s. “You know that they’re going to treat you right.?

To Taival, they’re a business that is “concerned with reputation.?

A business that has earned itself a century old reputation will uphold it for the benefit of its customers.

“I know I can come here and actually see a person,? said Kara Salmela, a customer at Daugherty’s. She said enjoys the service and the knowledge the family owned business gives to visitors.

And yet, others come to the store for its well-known and knowledgeable staff.

“The staff knows exactly where everything is,? said Carlson.

“A lot of employees have worked here a long time,? said Taival.

He confidently knows that due to its history, one may find an array of knowledgeable people willing to help.

Yvonne Pilcher is one of these knowledgeable staff members.

“I’ve been here for 20 years,? she said. “I keep seeing the same customers coming.?

Pilcher’s view of Daugherty’s extensive history is refreshing and powerful.

“With history, comes experience,? said Pilcher confidently.