Oakdale Fuel & Materials Company is founded by three members of the Boersma family. The store is located at 1500 Kalamazoo Avenue SE and sells mostly coal, which arrives by rail on a spur that crosses Kalamazoo Avenue and runs through Fuller Avenue. Eventually ownership is consolidated under Fred and Jewel Boersma.
Tunis Vander Lugt, or “Tunie” to his friends, asks Fred Boersma for a job at Oakdale Fuel & Materials Company. Tunie’s previous job experience at a hardware store near Allendale makes him the perfect fit and he becomes a manager at the store.
Fred and Jewel Boersma add space to the store, more than doubling the sales floor and creating a room for an expanded hardware assortment. The new addition is advertised as “Grand Rapids’ most modern hardware,” a moniker that takes root in the community while Oakdale Fuel & Materials Company begins to fade…
During this time the store carries an extensive line of housewares, including dishes, dinnerware, small appliances, hunting and fishing gear, and toys. The store is also one of the first two Porter-Cable power tool distributors in West Michigan and carries other Grand Rapids-based products like Knape and Vogt, Dexter Locks, Keeler Brass, and Leslie Products.
Tunis convinces Fred Boersma to join a new hardware cooperative buying group called Hardware Wholesalers, Inc. or HWI. The group, now known as Do It Best, quickly grows to become the second-largest hardware co-op and allows Modern Hardware to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging industry.
Oakdale Fuel & Materials Company is officially reincorporated as Modern Hardware, Inc. Tunis and his wife, Ethel, begin to have more and more influence on Modern Hardware’s operations and eventually reach an agreement to purchase the company.
The business becomes more focused on builder and contractor trade. Ethel also starts to develop a decorative hardware department, adding displays and lines that eventually account for more than 50 percent of sales. Ethel is a pioneer in a male-dominated industry. She and Tunis are true partners, paving the way for many women leaders at Modern.
The Vander Lugt kids—Elaine and Bob—start working at the store as teenagers and later join the business full-time.
One of Tunis and Ethel’s first—and best—hires is a young Rick Dreyer. Rick connects with staff and customers immediately and is soon opening the store and managing departments. In 1980, Rick joined the family part of the business when he married Elaine.
Tunis Vander Lugt is honored for 40 years in the business. He is seen here with Rick (left), Ethel, and Bob (right), as well as one of his grandchildren.
The Vander Lugt family acquires T. Keppel and Sons Hardware in downtown Holland, Michigan. The business is a 100-year-old specialty hardware retailer that sold only builders’ and decorative hardware.
Tunis and Ethel Vander Lugt are featured in a Grand Rapids Press article highlighting several locally-owned hardware stores. Tunis remarks that their distributor relationships, which give the hardware store buying power, are essential to their success.
Elaine and Bob, along with their spouses, purchase Modern Hardware from their parents to become second generation owners.
T. Keppel and Sons Hardware relocates to a larger location in Zeeland, Michigan. The store sees significant growth until the Great Recession in 2008 and closes in 2010.
The Kalamazoo Avenue location undergoes a major renovation and store redesign. In 2003, the business is honored with a “Best Small Business” award from the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.
In 2003, the business is honored with a “Best Small Business” award from the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.
Nearly all of Tunis and Ethel’s grandchildren have worked at Modern Hardware, including Josh, son of Elaine and Rick, and Nick, son of Bob and Vicki. Josh and Nick are integral members of the Modern leadership team, maintaining the values and vision demonstrated by both their grandparents and parents over the last 50 years.
The Vander Lugt and Dreyer families celebrate Modern Hardware’s 50th anniversary. As West Michigan’s largest selection of decorative and builder’s hardware, they provide unmatched service to their community. Now offering convenient amenities like design services, home installation, online ordering, and delivery, they consistently seek to exceed customer’s expectations as a trusted partner for both contractors and homeowners. The Modern Hardware team is grateful to their hardworking employees and their community for their ongoing support. Here’s to the next 50 years!