Los Fresnos News

Harlingen Hardware Store One of a Kind

James Hess, owner of Johnny’s True Value, talks about the store ups and downs. Photo: Tony Vindell/LFN

by Tony Vindell/LFN

Not all hardware stores are the same.

Some are owned by multi-million-dollar corporations like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, Do It Best and 84 Lumber.

Others are family-owned like Gloor Lumber, Matts Cash and Carry and El Clavo Lumber.

Johnny’s True Value in Harlingen, Ed Couch and Edinburg is a one person operation owned by James Hess.

“I have been running this store since after I bought it from my father a while back,” he said during a break at the Harlingen store. “He first opened the store in Raymondville in 1948 and it was called Western Auto.”

He said the store takes its name after his father Johnny.

Hess said he employs about 54 people – 40 in Harlingen and seven each at the other stores.

He said that competing against large companies is a quite a challenge but, nevertheless, he has been able to ride the financial storms.

When Home Depot opened a store here in town he said he lost about half million dollars locally, but recovered within six months.

But after Lowe’s did so, Hess took a similar hit and has not gotten back to the level where he was then.

“We sell a lot of merchandise here,” he said, “but we also sell good service.”

Hess said he wants to retire soon so he and his wife Melinda can spend more time together.

Johnny’s True Value store is known as having spare parts for all sorts of garden and home gadgets and appliances like lawnmowers, weed eater, plumbing parts, sprayers, tools, and so on. It also sells guns, ammo, knifes, fishing and camping gear.

Harlingen residents Oscar Rodriguez said he has been shopping at the hardware for at least 20 years while Enrique Garcia said he has been working at the hardware store for the last nine years.

“I enjoy working here,” Garcia said. “I used to work at another store but I have learned a lot here.”