WARRENTON — A local builder is restarting the former Warrenton Builders Supply on Main Avenue as a construction office, hardware store and commercial shop rentals.
Ken Culp, co-owner of Culp & Sons Builders Inc. with his son, Matthew, recently leased the long-vacant former Ace Hardware franchise from the family of Dick Walter, who opened the store in 1968 and died in 2009.
Culp intends to buy the building and lumber storage spaces across Main Avenue. He is moving the offices for his construction company in the coming weeks, and hopes to reopen a hardware store in the space within the next couple of months.
“Our shop is super, super small,” Culp said. “It’s a 24-by-24(-foot) building, and our office was a little bit bigger than our bathroom. We needed a little more room, and this thing had been sitting here for ages.”
Warrenton Builders Supply closed shortly after Walter’s death, according to his wife, Marilyn, who still lives in a house next to the store.
“Part of it was losing Dick,” she said. “He was the real workhorse of it.”
The store was also affected by the opening of Home Depot nearby in the 2000s. When the store closed, the family left everything in place, including about 80 percent of the inventory, forklifts, dump trucks and other equipment.
Culp is cleaning out the store, making repairs, taking stock, securing wood with Hampton Lumber Mills and preparing to restart a franchise with Ace Hardware or independently. He isn’t worried about Home Depot.
“If we don’t (make it), the construction company will just consume the store, and the construction company will eat the inventory,” he said. “I have a plan B.”
The expansive store includes ample shop space. Culp is taking inquiries through his building company on what people are interested in renting as he cleans and repairs the building, remodeling spaces to suit.
The relationship between the Culp and Walter families goes back as far as the opening of Warrenton Builders Supply, when Culp’s father, Jim, was a contractor and one of Walter’s first customers.
“Because of that, I won three buckets of house stain,” Jim Culp said.
The two families grew a symbiotic relationship, with Warrenton Builders Supply taking messages for the Culp’s construction company, which provided building services and helped bring customers to the hardware store. The Culp surname still adorned a pegboard next to the cash register when Ken Culp first gained entry to the hardware store.
Many have lamented the loss of local shops with knowledgeable staff because of competition from big-box retailers. Culp is hoping to lend his 48 years of construction experience to the hardware store, keeping a regular presence in the back office and providing advice to customers.