BY GAYLE SIMONE, Valley Dispatch Staff
Where: 45 Hampshire St., Methuen
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed on Sundays and major holidays; cash, credit cards accepted
METHUEN — Robichaud True Value Hardware has been a staple in Methuen since 1922. You’ve probably seen it if you’ve ever driven through Methuen Square. What you may not know is two women run it these days.
Barbara Robidoux and her sister-in-law, Karen Desrochers, run the day-to-day business that the father of Barbara’s mother-in-law started 83 years ago.
Barbara, 48, and her husband Bob took over the business in September 2004, when Bob’s father Wilfred retired and Bob’s brothers didn’t want to follow in their father’s footsteps. That was not the case for Barbara and Bob.
“We discussed it in great detail,” said Barbara, who spent most of her time in the office until then.
“We knew if we didn’t take over the business, it would close. And it would be gone forever.
“We didn’t want to look back 15 years from now and regret it. I’m a traditionalist. It’s been in the family for so long, I couldn’t just let it go.”
Apart from it being in the family for so long, Barbara also noted that the customers also helped her make her decision.
“I have very loyal customers, mostly homeowners,” Barbara explained. “We do have some contractors. We used to have a lot more but when the ‘Big Boxes’ (Home Depot and Lowe’s) came in they kind of went there.
“I have customers that will come in the morning with their morning coffee and walk around the store for about 45 minutes to an hour — and they always buy something.”
Barbara said her priority for the business is to give one-on-one service her customers can’t seem to find anywhere else.
“We had this one woman, an elderly woman, who bought a (sump) pump from us. The problem was she would take it out after every rain storm and it eventually broke.
“So my husband and I drove over there one night, without calling her first, and fixed the pump for her. We knew we could fix it and it made her very happy. Who else would do that? Not Lowe’s or Home Depot or any other of the mom-and-pop hardware stores.”
Barbara believes the community has kept Robichaud in business for as long as it has and wants to give back to the community to thank them for helping the business be successful.
The store is open until 5:30 p.m. everyday, but that doesn’t stop Barbara from opening up when her customers need her.
“I had this one couple that bought their first house here in Methuen and they were ready to paint,” Barbara explained. “I spent a lot of time on the phone with the wife talking to her about techniques and colors.
“The only problem was they work until 5 and wouldn’t be able to make it into the store to look at the colors. I told her ‘no problem, call me when you and your husband would like to come down and I’ll open up.’ And that’s exactly what I did. I think it was around 6:30- seven o’clock. I went downstairs, turned on the lights and opened the store for them.”
Barbara knows they will never be able to carry the inventory the “Big Boxes” carry, but is looking to expand in other areas, including providing the extra service “you’re just not going to get at a Big Box.”
She is also hoping to expand her business to a lot more women.
“We will, hopefully by next summer, have clinics for women on painting, lawn mowing and small basic repairs. There are a lot of single women who are homeowners and we want to show them they can do it themselves.”
She first started in the hardware business after she married Bob in 1983 and she has no intentions of retiring anytime soon, but has hopes that one or all three of her sons — Jason, Michael and Taylor — will want to keep it going.
“They all work here now; it truly is a family business. As far as retiring,” Barbara said. “It hasn’t even crossed my mind. I have way too much to accomplish before I can even think about it I originally would just go in to help Bob, you know be an extra set of hands. And then it just evolved. It’s where I belong.”