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Best Colorado Deals: Dedicated to Independent Shoppers and Retailers

With this issue, Best Colorado Deals, is expanding its reach to Associated Content, a national on-line newspaper based right here in Denver.

General Hardware needs YOU!

You’re working on your house, and you need something simple and inexpensive. Maybe it’s a piece of wood to replace the broken piece in a window frame, or a couple of screws that must be exactly the right size.

So you head over to the nearest big-box hardware store and start searching. If you just winced, you already know how frustrating and time-consuming that process can be.

Just why do we keep mindlessly heading to the crowded parking lots of Lowe’s and Home Depot? Perhaps because we believe it’s less expensive to shop there. Funny, though. Most of us don’t balk at paying a little more for good service and a chance to save time.

Perhaps, and sadly, we go to the big guys because they’re so visible, not just in our neighborhoods, but also through their multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns.

As a champion of small retailers, I was troubled after I had a short chat with one of the people who works at my very favorite hardware store, the General True Value Hardware at 660 S. Broadway. He told me the store’s business has dropped sharply ever since True Value cut back on co-op advertising.

“We’re just getting killed,” he said, his voice practically echoing in the empty store. “We used to get some co-op advertising through True Value, but they haven’t been doing it, and we can’t afford to buy advertising by ourselves.”

How depressing. I have good reason to love that store. Time after time, the staff has gone far beyond the call of duty to help me, most notably when I asked how to rewire a lighting fixture and the clerk offered to do it for me.

“How much will that cost?” I asked.

“Oh, just the price of the parts,” he said. “General Hardware already pays me for my time. If we were busy, I wouldn’t offer, but things are pretty slow, and I don’t really have anything else to do.”

I can’t believe anything even remotely similar to that has ever happened at my neighborhood Home Depot.

Clearly, my little hardware store (which, by the way, has been named as the top hardware store in town by both the Rocky Mountain News and Westword) is light years ahead of the big-box stores on service.

But what about price?

I decided to do a little research.

Although they weren’t on my list, I had noticed that General Hardware had marked down a set of six Garden Essentials solar pathway lights from $24.99 to $17.99. That seemed like a good deal, so I bought them.

Then I checked to see how General’s deal stacked up to its competition.

Here’s what I found.

According to the package (and my inspection), the Garden Essentials solar pathway lights from General True Value Hardware are powered by solar cells, the lights are white LED with plastic lenses and turn on automatically at dusk, off at dawn. The package says they stay lighted for eight hours. They’re 14.35 inches high, 4.97 inches wide, feature installed rechargeable Ni-Cad AA batteries, and are made of stainless steel.

Price:

*Regularly $24.99 for six: $4.17 apiece

*Sale price $17.99 for six: $3 apiece

In the online photo of Earth Tech Products solar pathway lights from www.earthtechproducts.com, they look identical to mine. These lights come in sets of four rather than six. There were two insignificant differences in the product description: the Earth Tech lights measured 14 inches high rather than 14.35 inches and 5 inches wide rather than 4.97. Also, the blurb says the Earth Tech lights stay on for 12, rather than eight hours.

Price:

*Regularly $65, plus $9.89 shipping, for four: $74.89, or $18.72 apiece.

*Sale price, $49.89, plus $9.89 shipping for four: $59.78, or $14.95 apiece.

By the way, or, as we say online, btw, the Web site includes the following customer testimonial:

“I’m very pleased with the quality of these solar lights & their brightness. Great Value! Thanks.”

Lance M., Dallas, TX

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I didn’t find anything quite so spot-on similar to the Garden Essentials lights at either Home Depot or Lowe’s. These were as close as I could get.

Lowe’s: Malibu Solar Pathway Marker Light, 7 inches high, 7 inches wide, plastic, one per package, $14.98 apiece.

Home Depot: HomeBrite Solar Path Lights, 10 inches high, 4 inches wide, plastic, set of six “mini” lights, $42, or $7 apiece.

Customer testimonial:

“I needed a set of pathway lights and decided to try these. These lights last from dusk till morning. These are absolutely the longest lasting solar lights I have ever bought.”

Lantgeo1, Snellville, GA

Reiny Brester, the owner of General True Value, was completely unsurprised that his store beat the heck out of Home Depot and Lowe’s on the price of solar pathway lights.

“If Lowe’s or Home Depot advertises something, that’s a loss leader, and you can bet it’s going to be really cheap,” he said. “But people have the impression that everything they find in those stores is going to be cheaper than it would be here, and that’s simply not true.

“We’ve gone through the cash register receipts people have brought us from those stores, and we’ve been able to show that we’re the same price or less on virtually any product. Remember, Lowe’s and Home Depot are publicly held companies, and they have to account to their stockholders. They’re not going to sell anything so cheaply that they lose money.”

If you live in Denver and need something from the hardware store, print this article and bring a copy to the General True Value hardware store at 660 S. Broadway in Denver, or call 303-777-7799 to ask about a special deal for Best Colorado Deals readers.

I would love to hear about your experiences dealing with small vs. big box hardware stores. Please leave a comment.

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