Young couple’s hometown hardware store helps Manson thrive

-Submitted photo
Drew and Madison Samuelson stand by a display at the Swanson Hardware store in Manson. They purchased the store in 2023, taking over from her grandparents, Randy and Deb Swanson.

Editors note: This story is reprinted with permission of the Calhoun County Economic Development Corporation.

MANSON — When Madison Samuelson was growing up in Manson, she always enjoyed spending time downtown at Swanson Hardware, which her grandparents owned and operated. After earning her degree at Iowa State University in Ames, Samuelson planned to move on and become an elementary school teacher, but everything changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I came back to Manson and realized I didn’t want to leave the hardware business,” said Swanson, 26, who teamed up with her husband, Drew, 24, to purchase the business in August 2023. “After years of working part-time at the store, I decided my heart really did belong here.”

While hardware has historically been a man’s world, young professionals like Samuelson are injecting new energy into this industry.

“When guys come in and ask to speak to the manager, sometimes they’re surprised to find out that’s me,” she said.

-Submitted photo
The Swanson Hardware store in downtown Manson is a family owned and operated business since 1992.

Personalized service sets a family-owned business like Swanson Hardware apart from the big-box stores.

“We greet everyone who walks through our door,” said Samuelson, who noted that some customers drop in with their dog, since Swanson Hardware welcomes well-behaved pets.

On a typical afternoon, customers might stop by to purchase anything from a post-hole digger to paint. (Swanson Hardware is consistently among the top 100 paint sellers within the Hardware Hank system in the Midwest.) The 4,000-square-foot Swanson Hardware store stocks nearly 12,000 items, from batteries to bolts.

“I never thought I’d get excited about hinges,” Samuelson said.

Hardware business becomes family affair

For Samuelson, the hardware business has been part of her life since she was a child. Her grandparents, Randy and Deb Swanson, purchased their first hardware store in 1992 in downtown Manson. They bought another hardware store in Rockwell City and owned a third hardware store in Emmetsburg (which Samuelson’s uncle, Nick Swanson, now operates).

“I thought it was cool that my family seemed to know everyone,” Samuelson said.

As Samuelson helped out at the Manson store, she learned how to pay attention to detail.

“When my grandma would walk down an aisle and spot an item out of place, she’d fix it,” Samuelson said. “Now I’m the same way.”

When the Swansons were ready to slow down, Samuelson was grateful she and her husband had the opportunity to buy the Manson store. It wasn’t always a clear-cut path, though.

“For years, my grandpa was adamant that he knew I’d come back, which drove me crazy at the time,” Samuelson said. “I was too busy with bigger dreams about changing the world through the classroom.”

Working at the store part-time all those years, however, had planted a seed that took root.

“Hardware runs deep in our family, but truthfully it’s way more than that,” Samuelson said. “Deep down I knew I would come back.”

The young couple reached out to the Small Business Development Center in Fort Dodge, put together a business plan and worked with Hardware Hank to put together a profit-and-loss statement as they prepared to buy the business.

“Still, I was so nervous we wouldn’t get financing,” said Samuelson, who didn’t want to buy the business on contract.

The Security Savings Bank in Manson came through.

“A big national bank probably would have laughed at us, but the Security Savings Bank has been a valuable partner,” Samuelson said. “They have a vested interested in the local community, just like we do.”

The Calhoun County Electric Cooperative Association also helped through their Revolving Loan Fund, which awards loans based on financial need and the benefits of the project to the rural area, including number of jobs to be created or retained, diversification of the economy and other factors.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Samuelson said.

Today, the Swanson Hardware team includes Samuelson, Ky Swanson, Eric Barnett and Darci Graffunder. Customers are amazed when they discover the wide range of items available at the store.

“‘I didn’t know you had that’ is something we hear all the time,” Samuelson said.

Swanson Hardware is proud to carry a number of Iowa products, including grass seed from La Crosse Seed in Ankeny, Molly & You beer bread mixes and dip mixes from Sac City, and Farmers Best Popcorn (a product with Rockwell City roots that’s now based in Worthington, Iowa).

The Samuelsons go to market twice a year, typically in the winter and early fall, to purchase merchandise for the store. Along with the basics, Swanson Hardware carries unique items like solar-powered patio umbrellas, along with a wide selection of Milwaukee tools and gear.

“We stock high-quality items and back our products, too,” Samuelson said.

Swanson Hardware is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In May, the store and greenhouse are open on Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“I’m a flower freak,” joked Samuelson, who enjoys providing garden seeds, flowers, vegetables, herbs, patio pots and more.

Making Manson a great place to live, work and play

The Samuelsons and their Swanson Hardware team love serving the community — and they’re just getting started.

Madison Samuelson is a member of the Manson Chamber of Commerce and Manson Betterment. She volunteers her time to help Manson Hometown Grocery with marketing and advertising. Drew Samuelson serves as the public works director for the city of Manson, plus he runs a lawn care and snow removal business. He also volunteers on the local fire department, serves as an EMS driver and operates a tree removal business (Manson Tree Service) with the Samuelsons’ neighbor, Jonathan Pierce.

The Samuelsons received the 2024 Impact Award from the Manson Economic Development Corporation in March 2024. This award recognizes a resident or residents of Manson who have generously given of their time and talents for the betterment of the community.

“People in this community are always in your corner, and we feel fortunate to have this support,” Madison Samuelson said. “I never dreamed I’d be selling hardware here, but now I wouldn’t want to do anything else. Drew and I and the Swanson Hardware team look forward to serving the community for years to come.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today