By McKibben Jackinsky
No, Chyrell Richardson had never owned a business.
No, she didn’t know a whole lot about hardware.
However, when she saw the need in her community, Richardson jumped in to fill it with one of Anchor Point’s newest businesses, Nutz and Bolts.
Having been enjoying the winter months in Texas, Richardson and her husband, Frank, who works a rotating shift on the North Slope, returned to the Anchor Point area in late April for the birth of a grandchild and were surprised to discover the neighborhood hardware store had closed its doors.
“I know from living here my whole life that Anchor Point needs a hardware store. Otherwise you go to Soldotna, Kenai or Homer for the little things,” said Richardson.
The couple was strongly encouraged to open a new hardware by Richardson’s mom, Geri Eskelson of Anchor Point.
“She was saying ‘Hey, this is a really good idea, guys,’” said Richardson.
While the couple awaited the arrival of their new family member, they began putting plans together to fulfill that need. Emmitt and Mary Trimble, owners of the building on the corner of North Fork Road and the Sterling Highway, agreed to make the space of the former hardware store available.
Richardson and her husband spent their two-week visit making plans to have the space made smaller, new flooring installed, walls painted and shelving constructed.
At the end of the planned two-week visit, the couple returned to Texas. They were disappointed that their grandson hadn’t arrived while they were here, but eager to pack up and head back to the Kenai Peninsula to start their new venture.
“We flew back to Texas and a friend told us, ‘Hey, you guys are doing a hardware store in Alaska. I know of a place that’s closing. See what kind of a deal you can make,’” said Richardson of discovering a hardware store in their Texas neighborhood was shutting its doors.
“Lo and be hold, we struck a deal and got all the nuts and bolts. And then a niece in Texas came up with the name and spelling, ‘Nutz and Bolts.’”
By mid-May, the Richardsons were back in Alaska with an inventory to get the business running. With the help of their son, Neil, pegboard was mounted on the wall for display and the research began for vendors from which they could order additional supplies.
“We didn’t have any of that in place until a week after we opened,” said Richardson of knowing where to get additional stock before opening for business June 21. “I will not deny there were some sleepless nights.”
Most of the time, it is Richardson who keeps the door open, lights on and customers served. As the basketball coach for Chapman School’s junior high girls basketball team, she occasionally has to step out, so her mom volunteers her time to keep the store open.
When Frank Richardson is home on his two-weeks-on-two-weeks-off work schedule, he also takes his turn at the store, occasionally accompanied by six-month-old Kaden, the grandson born the day after they returned to Texas.
Richardson keeps a tablet close at hand to record items customers request in an effort to build up the store’s inventory. Orders are delivered every Monday or Friday.
In addition to the neatly displayed nuts and bolts in a variety of sizes that were brought from Texas, Richardson has added frequently asked for items like water jugs, gas jugs, strapping tape, snow shovels and windshield washer fluid.
There are white buckets with and without lids and sets of cooking bowls that seem to be in high demand. There are a few auto mechanic tools and chainsaw files.
“There are times we have had to say, ‘Sorry, I don’t have it, but I can get it.’ Usually, it’s a ‘we needed it yesterday’ type of deal, but if they’re willing to wait, I’ll get it,” said Richardson.
There also is a display of keys and a key-making machine on which Richardson is fast becoming an expert. If the key doesn’t come out exactly right, she will willingly keep at it until she gets it right at no extra charge.
“It’s a convenience. That’s what it is,” said Richardson of the merchandise in addition to hardware. “It’s a convenience to save customers a trip all the way to town.”
For larger items — for example, she was recently asked if she sold compressors — Richardson is willing to do some research.
On Saturdays, she has added a little sweetness to the mix with a bake sale that features breads and pastries made by local cook Karolyn Brown.
Less than six months into the world of business ownership, Richardson said Nutz and Bolts is proving what she knew was true: Anchor Point did, indeed, need a hardware store.
“The best part is that this is all paid for. It’s all out of pocket. There’s nothing on a credit card. It’s paying its own bills, paying the electricity, the heat and phone without us having to go into debt,” said Richardson.
In addition, she also is learning more about the business and more about her community.
“I thought, oh, run a little hardware store, OK, but then people come in and want to know about welders. I know nothing about welders. So, then, let’s look it up. It’s an education, a learning experience every single day,” she said.
“And there are people that I didn’t even know lived here coming in. I’m getting to know most of them on a first-name basis.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.
Nutz and Bolts, LLC
Chyrell and Frank Richardson
Corner of North Fork Road and the Sterling Highway, Anchor Point
10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Monday through Saturday