After 74 years in downtown Shawnee, Hartman Hardware is closing permanently as owners Mike and Lisa (Hartman) Unterreiner retire and move out of state. The couple recently sold the property to a local developer who has plans to revitalize the streetscape in that area.
The Hartman family sold their three buildings and a parking lot downtown to Box Real Estate Development, a development company in Lee’s Summit. Box Real Estate is already doing business in the area with Blume Development, the Nieman catalyst site that will become a mixed-use residential/retail development underway just south of Hartman Hardware on Nieman Road.
The couple first met with Russell Pearson, owner of Box Real Estate Development, last fall and were drawn to his vision for the downtown area. The change in ownership became official Sept. 1.
“We were kind of particular; we weren’t just going to up and leave everybody in the lurch in downtown,” said Mike Unterreiner, noting his efforts with the Shawnee Downtown Partnership to bring in reinvestment opportunities to the area. “This is a key corner and it’s going to be important to the production of downtown and everybody else’s business. Russell explained that he was interested in preserving and keeping the history of this building, but yet upscoring it to bring in people from outside to Shawnee.”
The Unterreiners’ decision to retire now came from a combination of factors — the city’s reinvestment in the Nieman Road corridor, the federal government’s designation of the downtown area as an opportunity zone and their personal desires to enter semi-retirement and slow down a bit. Mike called it the “perfect storm.”
“We also came to the realization that, actually, I felt like the hardware store wasn’t the perfect fit for the middle of everything that’s building up around here,” Lisa said, citing the recent business growth that is turning downtown into a walkable destination: Aztec Theatre, Transport Brewery, Servaes Brewing Company, McLain’s Market, Sancho Streetside and Drastic Measures. “This building needs to be beautified. It can be so much for the community.”
Pearson’s company is planning to invest $1 million in improvements for the streetscape. With an “adaptive reuse” approach similar to what McLain’s Market did with OK Garage down the street, Pearson hopes to turn the hardware store into a space for restaurant/bar uses and capitalize on the upper floor as an outdoor patio overlooking Johnson Drive. Below is a copy of the conceptual plan:
“We’re improving these buildings that have a lot of character and history and contribute to the fabric of this sub-market, and a lot of these tenants have been in the buildings for decades,” Pearson said. “So we’re trying to honor that legacy and not disrupt the balance. There’s a value to history that is difficult to put a price on, but intuitively, we all understand that it’s important and it creates character of a neighborhood.
“There’s a lot going on, a level of excitement, a lot of fun things happening, and I want to be a part of that.”
Box Real Estate Development is seeking public financing from Kansas Neighborhood Revitalization Act and the Shawnee Entrepreneurial and Economic Development (SEED) program.
Box Real Estate Development is also partnering with NAI Heartland, a real estate company in Overland Park, to identify prospective businesses for the site of the hardware store. Pearson, who is also a partner and broker for NAI Heartland, has requested that any interested parties should contact NAI Heartland.
‘It’s come full circle’
The business has been in the Hartman family for nearly four generations. Over the years, the Hartmans also grew their property footprint to include the building that houses Zimmerman Law and Shawnee Shoe Repair and Tayloring, as well as the building east of the hardware store that’s home to ShananiGanns Boutique, Shawnee Optix and Mid-America Sign.
Lisa’s grandparents, Clarence Sr. and Lizza Hartman, purchased the hardware store in 1946 from A.L. Pierson. They lived above the store until 1955 when they moved to their home in McAnany Estates. The second floor still features the hardwood floors, high ceilings, large coat rack and classic “push button” light switches from its early days as a dance hall.
Their sons, Clarence “Red” Jr. and John Hartman, took over the store, duly named Hartman & Sons, when Clarence Sr. retired in the 1960s. Nearly three decades later, the sons sold the store to Red’s daughter and son-in-law, Lisa (Hartman) Unterreiner, and Mike Unterreiner. The Unterreiners’ two children, Danielle Steele and Jacob Unterreiner, helped out in the store after school.
Mike Unterreiner remarked on the downtown area’s history of long-time family-owned businesses. Hartman Hardware is among Donovan’s Service, Amos Funeral Home and Calkins Electric Supply Company, which all have multiple generations of family ownership. Mike and Lisa joined the throng when they purchased Hartman Hardware from Lisa’s father and uncle in 1998.
“You don’t see that anywhere,” Mike said.
Lisa grew up in the business and recalls long-ago memories of coming into the store as a small child, and her grandparents giving her a nickel to buy candy at Haskins Pharmacy next door.
“Back then, they had the grass seed in the galvanized trash cans that we have for sale over here, and my sister and I would play in the grass seed,” she said. “And I know better now, but I didn’t know then: We would mix up the grass seeds. We’d get scolded of course, so then it got to the point, we could look but don’t touch.
“It’s funny because it’s come full circle. I came in here a little bitty person, and now I ended up owning it and working here and being the one to scold somebody to mix up grass seeds.”
Haskins Pharmacy is now the space of Zimmerman Law and Shawnee Shoe Repair and Tayloring. Pearson plans to repurpose the site of the shoe repair shop so it could be combined with the space occupied by the hardware store. Shawnee Shoe Repair and Tayloring will move into the space occupied by Mid-America Sign down the street.
Meanwhile, Box Real Estate Development and Mid-America Sign are looking for a new space for the shop that fits more industrial type uses.
Pearson said he plans to incorporate elements of the hardware store — a neon sign for Hartman Hardware, the gauge off the steam boiler that used to heat pipes throughout the building, an old weight scale — to preserve the history of the building.
“It’s a changing of a chapter — their chapter — so it’ll be something different, and I don’t know what that is,” Pearson said. “I’m intentionally trying to keep an open mind. The exact outcome is to be decided.”