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Bingham's will close

When he walks into Bingham Hardware, Skip Bodendorfer knows he'll leave with the right tools for the job. Equally important, the Superior man will take with him with knowledge on how to do the job right.

That's why Bodendorfer made daily trips to Bingham when he worked as a master mechanic for the Superior Fire Department

It's why he still stops there two or three times a week.

"Half the time, I go in there for information," he said. Somewhere in the building is a master plumber or electrician with the know-how he needs to get the work done, he said

"It's the service that has brought me there time and time again," Bodendorfer said.

The store, which has been part of the Superior business community since 1888, will be closing its doors in the next few months. Owner Michael Upthegrove said the business will begin a liquidation sale Wednesday. Once his inventory is gone, the real estate will be sold and one of Superior's locally-owned businesses will be gone.

It came as a surprise to regular customers.

"It's going to be a great loss to this community," Bodendorfer said.

"Wow, that's a shame," said Craig Johnson, co-owner of Four Star Construction. "They always provided a quality product."

Upthegrove's family has owned the business since 1957. He said it is closing because of pressure from new stores as well as a flat local economy. Among the competitors are a Menards and Super Wal-Mart barely a mile away down Tower Avenue.

"I think it all adds up," Upthegrove said. "There's just a lot of outside forces today that make it tough to stay in business."

Roger Lundquist, who was part-owner of Bingham for years, put it more bluntly.

"It's not necessarily the people, the location or the business," he said. "It's the nature of consumer buying trends today."

By watching where dollars are spent, Lundquist said, "The community's already told us they prefer to shop at Menards."

For Lundquist, who owns East End Hardware, that means adapting to keep customers coming in the door.

The Upthegrove family has made many changes to keep Bingham competitive. They included a move from downtown Superior to the lot across from Superior Community Credit Union in 1974 and an expansion in the late 1980s. In addition, Lundquist said, Bingham offers higher-end equipment and some products not found elsewhere.

"In the past when we have expanded or remodeled it always seemed to work out," Upthegrove said. But a more recent expansion to house rental equipment in the late 1990s did not fare as well.

The business employs 12.

"I am concerned about them," Upthegrove said. "In a small place like this your employees, they become your friends."

Among them is Donna Cole of Superior. She's been with Bingham for 20 years. Wearing a red vest, she greeted customers Monday with a cheery "Good morning." At the counter, she talked about possible retirement once the doors close for good.

"I'm just sad," she said. "I enjoy working here, I enjoy the customers. I'm going to miss it."

Lundquist expressed his sadness, too.

"We put in a lot of years, both Mike and I, into it ... sweat and work. We take it very, very personally."

Upthegrove said he has enjoyed working with the employees and customers over the years. He, too, is talking retirement.

"We all have to move on eventually," he said. "Maybe it's just a bit sooner than I planned."

The business will remain open for the next month or two, including the engine repair facilities, Upthegrove said, as inventory is sold off.

Johnson said his business will continue to work with local hardware stores as long as they can. It will take customers like him to keep other locally-owned businesses from following Binghams.

"It has to be supported by the community," Lundquist said. "What the community dictates is what's going to happen."

Maria Lockwood covers public safety. E-mail mlockwood

@superiortelegram.com or call (715) 394-4421, ext. 132.

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