There are a couple of things you’ll never do when you go into the Trustworthy Hardware store.
First, you’ll never wait longer than a minute or two to be helped by someone very knowledgeable in a wide range of hardware merchandise. And second, you will not wander aimlessly through aisles searching for what you need.
Almost without exception, there are a couple of things you will do after visiting Trustworthy Hardware: You’ll recommend the store to others, and you’ll return.
Owned and operated by Justin Phillips, his wife Kelsey, and Gordy Banfield and his wife Michelle, the store almost seems like an anomaly in today’s ubiquitous smattering of impersonal, big-box megastores.
When you walk into Trustworthy, one of the proprietors will unfailingly greet you with a smile and ask what you need.
You will get the same helpful attention whether you’re a contractor looking for a specific and critically needed item or a new customer who just can’t put a finger on exactly what you need.
“We specialize in one-on-one service,” says Justin. “People remember that, and word of mouth has brought us a considerable amount of business. We’ve doubled and even tripled some parts of our business in the past few years.”
Once named True Value, the store wasn’t always as successful as it is today. Justin has worked at the store since he was a teenager, and in 2006 finally managed to purchase it. But the following year a large and prolonged construction project on Eagle River Loop Road, coupled with Anchorage’s housing crash (caused by plummeting oil prices), dealt a severe blow to the business.
“The opening of Walmart in Eagle River and Home Depot’s introduction of a paint line were also tough on our business,” Justin recalls. “We had to declare bankruptcy and the store was sold.”
Not one to give up, however, Justin and his friend Gordy Banfield noticed that the store was up for sale again in 2016, and they jumped at the chance to purchase it together.
“From the outset, we worked steady for 18 months without pay,” Justin remembers. “But we kept our overhead low, brought the paint line in, expanded our inventory of nuts and bolts, tools, equipment and other items, and started our propane sales.”
“There is a misconception that our items are higher priced than the big stores,” Justin adds. “But overall, our prices are very competitive–and we work hard to keep it that way.”
As local owners, Justin, Gordy and their wives pay close attention to what goes on in the community and seek to lend a hand whenever they can. In 2016, when Mike McCormick’s house on Skyline Drive burned down, Trustworthy Hardware became a key point of contact for donations to help the family through the crisis.
Likewise, when Sarah Marble’s tent was robbed in September 2018 at Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park, Trustworthy served as a drop-off point for gifts and contributions. Through the help of many generous folks in Eagle River-Chugiak, the Marble family was eventually able to end its homelessness and secure permanent housing.
Each Tuesday, Trustworthy hosts a special event they call Traeger Day, named after the Traeger barbecue grills they sell. Customers are welcomed in to shop and enjoy reindeer sausage, chicken and other tasty treats fresh off the grill.
Gordy Banfield also produces short videos to post on Facebook that provide tips and “how to” tutorials on home construction projects and repairs.
Justin’s wife Kelsey also works outside of the Trustworthy store, so the permanent staff is usually three people strong. “We work long and hard hours, but we’re a tight-knit, efficient team,” says Justin, “and we’ve developed a great relationship with our many customers. Looking back, I still have to give thanks to my dad. He was really a big help getting the business off the ground.”
Spend just a little time in the store and you’ll feel its warm, friendly atmosphere.
Two customers that I spoke with, an electrician and a handyman both from Eagle River, said they would go nowhere else for their supplies.
Another customer, Eagle River’s Wayne North, who in early March was getting his propane tank filled, commented, “It’s an awesome store!”
That seems to say it all. Customers who step into Trustworthy seem to quickly become loyal regulars at the store.
Trustworthy Hardware is located at 17034 Eagle River Loop Road. The store is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.