Walking the aisles in Lockhart, Texas

The Tuttle Lumber True Value store on San Antonio Street in historic Lockhart Texas — straight down the road from one of the prettiest courthouses in the state — has a colorful past.

And the owners, with an assist from the Chicago-based co-op, are working to ensure that it is well designed for the future.

Originally a 1950’s-era grocery store, then a True Value hardware store, then an Ace hardware store, then a vacant shell for three years, the site was finally converted to its current form as Tuttle Lumber True Value in mid-2010.

Tuttle Lumber’s Don Gilbreath is the latest owner to breathe life into the building. Founded in nearby (18 miles) San Marcos in 1950, Tuttle Lumber is a contractor-focused lumberyard with a small hardware component. Gilbreath had kicked around the idea of building fresh in Lockhart, but the economy and the market pushed back, eventually leading to a more conservative strategy of purchasing the vacant building. 

Another thing he always wanted to do was sign up for the Destination True Value format.

“I remember the Atlanta market in 2007 when they first rolled out the concept,” Gilbreath told Home Channel News. “I walked down there on the floor, and entered into that model store and said to myself, ‘I gotta have one of these.’” Asked what struck him specifically, Gilbreath offered a holistic answer. “The whole package is what grabbed me,” he said. “The lighting, the colors and the feel.” 

In the store, some design features are more pronounced than others. A wide aisle up the middle is intersected by another to lead the customer through the store and encourage browsing and shopping. The trademark brown and off-yellow checkered floor pattern distinguishes certain aisles. Short aisles create a plethora of endcap opportunities. And in the middle of it all: a bargain bin for treasure hunters. 

The end result is a store that seems much larger than its 9,000 sq. ft.

“True Value has done a very good job creating that concept and obviously is continuing to improve on it,” he said.

Tuttle Lumber is also an early adopter of the True Value ship-to-store e-commerce program, allowing customers to buy online and pick up in the store (or have it delivered to their home at a higher price.)

Tuttle Lumber’s two locations are very different from each other, and complement each other, Gilbreath said. In San Marcos, contractors make up 85% to 90% of sales. In Lockhart, retail DIY makes up 85% to 90% of sales. 

While San Marcos has a suburban feel and competes with all the big players along the busy I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio, Lockhart is described as historic and nostalgic and somewhat rural. “Lockhart still has the feeling of Mayberry,” he said.