BALLINGER — John Werner, the owner of Dixie Hardware in Ballinger, is retiring after over than 50 years in the business. Werner and his wife, Charlotte, owned hardware stores in Houston before relocating to Ballinger in 1999.
“We paid for some demographic studies to be done in several towns, including Ballinger, Sweetwater, Mason and couple of others,” Werner said. “Once we found Ballinger, we fell in love with it.”
Werner’s father owned a hardware store also named “Dixie” in Houston. Werner started grew up around the hardware store business and worked there as a teen. In 1966, he went into a partnership with is father and then bought the entire business in 1985. After being robbed at gunpoint in his Houston store a couple of times and tired of fighting traffic, they relocated to Ballinger in 1999.
Dixie Hardware opened on Oct. 21, 1999.
“We bought the land and we built the building,” Werner said. “We used only local contractors for all of the work.”
While some businesses have shut their doors in the last two decades, Werner says that seeing places like Buddy’s Plant Farm and Mueller grow and exceed expectations has been enjoyable.
“Buddy’s and Mueller’s have done well,” Werner said. “They’ve put in the time and hard work and it shows.”
Werner was president of the Ballinger Chamber of Commerce in 2004 and has been intertwined in the fabric of the local economy.
In these times, when many local businesses across the country are selling out to larger companies and corporations, Werner bucked the trend.
“I had offers from large companies and could have sold it but if someone local didn’t buy it, we weren’t going to sell it,” he said. “It’s better to close the doors than to have some company come in from Chicago or somewhere and take over. When these large companies come in, the customer service gets worse. It doesn’t matter if it’s a paint company or an alarm company or any other company, the customer service drops.”
One of the unique aspects of Dixie Hardware are the employees. There are two women and four men.
“There are six of us here,” he said. “The two younger girls work the counter. Then it’s me and three other men. I’m 73 years old, another man is 70, another is 75 and the fourth man is 80. We’re not getting any younger.”
After settling into Ballinger, Werner and his wife bought a 64-acre farm on the river. They also became an integral part of the community.
“We fell in love with Ballinger,”Werner said. “It has been great to us. We could not have found a nice town to settle in.
Werner talked of retirement and selling the 7,000-square-foot store.
“Charlotte is not in good health now and it’s time to retire,” he said. “But maybe in a year or two, after I’ve finished my ‘honey-do’ list, I’ll get bored and decide to find a job. We’re going to sell all of the inventory and then we’re going to sell the buildings.”