History Of Kroeger’s ACE Hardware
Durango was only 7 years old when G. H. Clark bought the hotel building directly to the west of the old First National Bank and started his retail feed, seed and farm implement business.
The year was 1888, and the address, 148 West 9th Street. Apparently the business thrived because soon the two story brick and frame building was expanded with a machine shed and a large livery stable across from the D&RG railroad tracks converted into a warehouse. Coal was added to the list of merchandise for sale.
The Farmers Supply Company was the new name given to the 33 year old business when it was acquired in August of 1921 by Fred W. Kroeger and his brother John. The business retained its farm supply image but added lines of heavy hardware, water systems, paint and lawn and garden supplies. The company was a leader in bringing new products and ideas to the community.
The first carload of mixed poultry and livestock feed to be shipped into the San Juan Basin resulted in a new franchise from the Ralston Purina Company. The shipment was a broad gauge carload from the nearest mill located in Kansas City. Rail shipments were routed by standard gauge freight cars and were hauled over the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad pass by way of Chama, NM into the San Juan Basin. The first shipment of oyster shells for poultry food also was a Farmer Supply Company introduction.
When commercial fertilizer was too new to be known and accepted as a regular agricultural production tool Farmers Supply brought in 1000 pounds of Super-Phosphate through their Aztec branch store and gave it to a few of the more venturesome farmers to try on small plots of alfalfa.
The results were so outstanding that soon many railcars were being shipped to Durango and the branch stores in Aztec and Farmington, NM. Fruit baskets were in great demand to handle the vast amount of apples in the area and also for peaches, pears and apricots. One broad gauge railcar of bushel baskets arrived in Durango in three of four narrow gauge cars. These were all unloaded by hand and often nearly filled to the top the big livery stable warehouse.
Most supplies were shipped by rail from the East and had to be transferred in Alamosa to narrow gauge cars. Baby chicks and poults arrived on the daily D&RG passenger train during the spring months. Much of the merchandise was shipped to customers by rail to such places as Chama, Dulce, Monero, Pagosa Junction, Arboles, Pagosa Springs, Allison, Tiffany, Ignacio, Sunnyside, Bondad, Cedar Hill, Riverside, Aztec, Flora Vista and Farmington.
Shipments went West to Hesperus, Dolores, McPhee and Rico. Sidings were available North at Trimble Springs, Hermosa, Needleton, Rockwood, Silverton, Howardsville and Eureka.
One winter (1931-32) when snow slides closed the railroad for several weeks and the roads had not been opened the only deliveries to Silverton were by Pack-mule from Needleton over the slides to Silverton.
Mail and Parcel Post were the only items being carried by the US Post Office. That didn’t keep a dairy herd in Silverton from needing hay. So, the Farmers Supply Company split several dozen bales of alfalfa in half, attached address tags and applied postage to ship a couple of tons of feed and saved the dairy business in Silverton. The dairy however did not last long afterward as high feed cost and long winters were too much for the operation.
In 1940 the two branch stores were sold to the manager and employees and the interest of John A. Kroeger was sold to the four children of Fred W. Kroeger, Marjorie Stagelman, Helen Faris, Fred V. Kroeger and Jack Kroeger. Both Fred and Jack were active in the business except for a WWII time out.
Jack moved into the farming end of the business and operated the livestock and farming interest. Fred stayed in the retail side of the business. More and more hardware lines were added to the business and in 1967 the feed, seed and fertilizer business was split off. At that time a new modern 10,000 square foot hardware store was opened.
The new hardware business thrived and has expanded four times since 1967 and currently has a sales area of 28,000 square feet and a warehouse of 7,800 square feet. In 1967 the business became affiliated with Cotter and Co. (True Value). Cotter and Co. is a member owned distributer of hardlines products with over 7000 members at that time. This allowed the business to purchase products at a competitive price.
In the mid 1990s Jim and Cindy Wendt of Durango purchased the business from Fred V. Kroeger and operated the business. In September of 2001 the business affiliation changed from TruServe (formerly Cotter and Co.) to Ace Hardware which is the largest dealer owned hardware co-op in the world. Then in 2006 Jim and Cindy sold the store to the current owners, Joel and Marge Krueger (not Kroeger) of Bayfield.
The business philosophy is still to provide a level of service that is unmatched in the industry and continue to be a strong partner in the community through involvement in sponsorships in various groups and activities and always striving to be a good customer service representative to all of our wonderful visitors from all corners of the world.
We are truly blessed to be part of this wonderful corner of our great country.