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New hardware store set to open; Bubbs will own Riverside True Value in Westporte Center

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 12/31/19

The husband-and-wife team that owns and operates the new Riverside True Value Hardware store at Westporte Centre in Middletown have a combined 27 years of experience in the retail hardware …

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New hardware store set to open; Bubbs will own Riverside True Value in Westporte Center

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The husband-and-wife team that owns and operates the new Riverside True Value Hardware store at Westporte Centre in Middletown have a combined 27 years of experience in the retail hardware business.

Actually it’s 34 years, if you count from when Lisa Bubb was 10 years old following around her father in the hardware store he co-owned in Lemoyne, before Bubb started officially working in the store at age 17.

Ryan and Lisa Bubb met each other through the hardware business, as Ryan started working for Lisa’s dad John Hepfer when he was in high school.

The Bubbs, who live in Duncannon with their 7-month old son Larson — named after Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich — plan to open for business Thursday, Jan. 2, with a grand opening to be held in the spring.

Their space in Westporte Centre on West Main Street was last occupied by Dollar Express, which closed in June 2017.

The hardware store carries the True Value name but it is not a franchise arrangement, according to Ryan.

“We have the ability to use their name as long as we purchase a certain amount of inventory every year,” he said.

The store is also what Bubb called a “destination True Value store,” modeled in design, decor and color scheme after True Value’s model store in Chicago. True Value also supports the store with merchandising and advertising.

Otherwise, the store is independently owned and operated by the Bubbs, he said.

Ryan Bubb, 30, has worked for True Value in one capacity or another for the last 13 years. He intended to go to college after working at Hepfer’s True Value store in Duncannon but “kind of got hooked on hardware and never looked back.”

Hepfer had a few True Value stores in Duncannon and Bubb managed the stores for six or seven years, before getting a job with True Value as a project manager at the corporate level.

“I just traveled all over the country doing this,” he said. “I’d set up a store, get them going and then I’d leave and do another one.”

“I did that for almost four years until he came along,” Ryan said, pointing to Larson. “I had to come home and get off the road and then this opportunity popped up.”

Lisa, 31, said her father has owned hardware stores for almost 50 years.

She and Ryan both enjoy the experience of taking care of customers.

An independent small-town hardware store means “we are expected to be experts on the products we sell,” Ryan said. “We’ve owned our own home for five years now. Most of the products in the store I’ve used and know how to use. I get enjoyment out of helping somebody else who might not know how to use something and teaching them how to do it and making sure they get the right thing. … I don’t care if you buy the most expensive can of paint. I want you to get the right can of paint.”

The store will have a large plumbing department, and electrical. Paint will be a big part of the store, as well as lawn and garden and seasonal merchandise for outside your home.

With Penn State Harrisburg right across the street, the store will stock items catering to a college student living in a dorm room, such as storage containers, totes, shelves and small appliances.

Ryan said the Bubbs were attracted to the space because they see “great opportunity” in Middletown as a growing community.

Nearly 50 percent of all housing in Middletown is rental, a reflection of Penn State Harrisburg being second only to University Park in terms of being the largest campus in the Penn State system. The Bubbs hope to tap into the market of landlords working on their properties in the borough.

Middletown has had a hardware store in town since 2015, when Street Stores Hardware opened at 115 E. Main St.

Nevertheless, “I just think it is an underserved market” when it comes to hardware, Ryan said of the Middletown area.

The Bubbs are interviewing prospective employees. By spring they hope to add up to five more full-time employees, and six to eight part-timers.

“We’re excited to get started here,” Ryan said, noting he and Lisa had originally hoped to open in August.

The Bubbs’ first choice of a name for their hardware store was West End, but that was taken in Pennsylvania, so they settled on Riverside to reflect Middletown being “a river town,” Ryan said.