(First published in Custer County Chief Feb. 27, 2020) Ken Pitkin and the Callaway True Value are almost a Callaway Landmark! The hardware business that was started from scratch will be handed off to the new owner Jacob Mason March 1, 2020. Pitkin, then a 23-year-old Callaway native returning home after receiving a degree in Social Sciences, opened a hardware store because the local banker suggested it.
He reached out to hardware franchises, and hearing back from True Value almost right away, the adventure started, May 4, 1977. Another True Value business in Lexington, Hennek’s were great mentors to Pitkin. Now, in 2020 Jacob Mason, a 23-year-old Callaway native will be taking over.
“When I started I knew a level one on hardware,” Pitkin said. “Jacob worked for me all the way through high school. He is starting at a level seven in hardware knowledge.” “We are not on a major highway, but we have very loyal customers,” he added.
Pitkin has loved what he has done for the past 43 years. “I love the hardware business. It has been good for me,” Pitkin said. “You solve problems every day.”
That does not mean it was all smooth sailing; there were some tough years. In the beginning, he put everything back into the business and there were some moments of thinking to change direction. But Pitkin worked long hours and now has a successful business to show for it.
He has gone by the slogan “Do what you do best, and hire the rest.” With that said, he enjoys people and selling and looks for advice in bookkeeping and accounting from outside sources. Over the years, Pitkin worked to create an environment that customers wanted to come into.
In the employee handbook, he has the 10 second principal – “When somebody comes in the door, we want them to be greeted by name if they know it or at least greeted. “ “That is why the Custer County Chief’’s Best of the Best is such a great award for us. It shows we are doing our customer service right,” Pitkin professed.
Pitkin gives credit to community support and a stable customer base. “Callaway is a great community to raise a family,” he said. “We believe with our product. We can compete across the board. I hear “I did not know you carry that,” or “That is less than when I got something like this in… (in mentioning the town they drove 60 miles to).”
Since graduating from high school, Mason has taken training with the National Guard, worked in construction with his father Justin Mason of Mason Construction and Lane Chesley of Design Homes, Inc and has been employed by BD. Purchasing Callaway True Value seemed like a good fit.
“I wanted to stay in the area and this all fell together,” Mason stated.
Mason is currently on active guard duty. Pitkin will fill in on the weekends Mason is doing his service. If the time comes that Mason would be deployed, Pitkin will be back at the store filling in. Mason and his family have been active in the community.
“They are rooted in the community,” Pitkin stated, so he is a good fit to take over for Pitkin.
After getting his feet wet owning the store, Mason hopes to add some lines such as lumber, different chain saw lines and rental equipment. For now, the Callaway True Value shoppers can be assured that the trusted store will be there to serve their needs. If this 23-year-old waits to retire in 43 years, it will be 2063 before the store changes hands again!