The Road to Independents

By Jerry Rabushka,

  Filed under: Feature

An Advocacy Road Trip

Road shows in our industry are becoming more common and The Paint Dealer has been fortunate enough to visit several. The “Great American River Road Trip” along the Mississippi River, organized by Independent We Stand, certainly hit some party towns. Starting from up north, this organization dedicated to supporting and promoting independent businesses visited Minneapolis, MN; Davenport, IA; Cape Girardeau, MO; Memphis, TN; and made its final stops in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA. Along with its goal of producing video vignettes to bring attention to the need to support independent businesses, the organization was also promoting its America’s Main Streets contest, where the winning city gets $25,000 to upgrade and update its downtown. Stihl is a major sponsor of the organization, and PPG has also been a consistent backer.

We caught up with the crew in Cape Girardeau, a river town of 40,000 about 110 miles south of Mugler Publications HQ in St. Louis. Telling their story were Fred and Tammy Elias, owners of Elias Family Hardware, opened by his grandfather in 1965 in Cairo, IL.

“The goal of this trip is for Independent We Stand to promote the unique experiences and the economic impact of America’s Main Streets on local communities,” said Bill Brunelle, co-founder of IWS. “Our theme this year is ‘Local Memories. Lasting Impact.’ which we see exhibited year after year as we travel the country visiting unique Main Streets. It’s driven by consumers who support them through the Buy Local movement.”



There was a bit of “camera shy” going on at first, but Fred and Tammy warmed up quickly and spoke on their commitment to their customers and their community involvement. Married almost 40 years, they recalled how Fred met Tammy when she applied for a job at Elias—and how it shows you can find anything at your local hardware store…even your wife!

They also spoke of the challenges and rewards of running an independent business; that even after almost two decades in Cape Girardeau they still need to work hard to get their name out over the bigger budget of the bigger boxes, and also how they enjoy watching some of their younger customers grow up and bring in families of their own. They also spoke on the importance of to giving back to their community through charitable contributions and supporting local organizations.


Get Out the Vote

Past America’s Main Streets contest winners have been Lyndon, WA and Deland, FL. It’s a quick 3,150-mile drive from one city to the next, about as far apart in the continental US as you can get. Through April 22, consumers and small business owners were invited to go online to to nominate and vote for their favorite Main Streets. A second round of voting for the 25 semifinalists runs through May 27.The announcement of the winner comes on June 4 followed by a “Main Streets Make Us Better” event on the Fourth of July to unveil the use of the $25,000 grand prize.

Alo ng with Elias, paint and hardware stores visited included Hirschfield’s in Minneapolis, Germantown Hardware & Paint in Memphis, Holmes Building Materials in Baton Rouge, and Mike’s Hardware & Supply in New Orleans. The tour organizers enjoyed their trip south into increasingly warmer weather.