Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
MT. PLEASANT - Kempker's True Value and Rental has been serving the community for 50 years now.
The company was initially created in 1970 by Bob Kempker and his wife Barb after purchasing Stebbins Hardware in Fort Madison.
Barb recalled the hard work it took to get the business up and running.
"Bob and I went into the business with little knowledge about hardware," Barb said in a release. "I worked at Lampe's Drug Store, and Bob worked for the railroad then sold insurance and moonlighted as a roofer after they shut down his department at Santa Fe. It was a big step in our lives, but with a lot of hard work by both Bob and me and our five children, we made it happen."
All of the Kempker's five children grew up working in the store. Sherry, Debbie, Sandy, Chuck, and Peggy would dust shelves, sort inventory, and help customers.
The second youngest and only son, Chuck, now owns and operates Kempker's True Value and Rental along with his wife, Dawn.
"We all worked in the family business," Kempker said. "I'm the one that sort of hung on and took it over. I'm the second generation, and I have two sons working in the business too."
He acquired the business from his parents in 2003. Throughout the years, several other locations were added.
In 2003, Bob and Barb purchased Shottenkirk's Used Auto Dealership in Mt. Pleasant, and it became a stand-alone rental store. In 2014, hardware was added.
Additional locations were added in Burlington (2011), Grimes (2013), and a fifth in Huxley (2017).
The Burlington location is run by Chuck's son Dustin and his wife, Sarah. His son Jason and his wife Kimberly run the store in Grimes, and the Huxley location is owned and operated by all four.
For Chuck, it's always been about the customers. That's been the most rewarding aspect of owning the business. Their motto, "Treating our customers like family since 1970," has always reflected the business.
"One thing that I've learned from day one is that customers are the top priority," he said. "We feel as a family business if you don't have customer service, we might as well not be in the business. That's what we try to thrive on."