Pastors don’t buy hardware stores very often, but Shawn Risinger’s vocations have always involved helping people, so the career switch from preacher to purveyor was a more natural fit than it sounds.
“It’s always about helping people. When the customers walk in, they need feed or a problem to be fixed,” Risinger says. “When you take care of the people, the price and the product will work itself out.”
He bought Eagle Hardware Farm & Ranch in Royse City, Texas, in 2007 when he was looking to retire from full-time church ministry and needed meaningful work to help him support his mother during cancer treatments. Since then, he has discovered boundless opportunities to use the store for public service.
Risinger sells hardware, farm and ranch products and also offers free workshops to help customers learn how to do their own DIY projects and better care for their livestock. He leads a popular annual Christmas Eve service in the store’s barn that has grown over the years and attracted more than 300 attendees in 2019.
Risinger also officiates weddings for free in the barn. When one customer asked him to host a memorial service for a family member, he felt honored.
“We’ve achieved what I strive to do, which is to be here for the community,” he says.
Learning customers’ names and helping them with their home projects and animals are the beginning of long-term relationships Risinger and his nine staffers develop with the people who buy from Eagle Hardware. Those relationships are why locals call to ask about store events and products or drop by to show off new pets. They also call to let the team know about life updates, such as a parent getting a cancer diagnosis that will prevent them from visiting the store.
Caring and helping are the Eagle Hardware way.
“That’s who we want to be,” Risinger says.
Refreshing the Store
Risinger purchased the store from its founder, Sue Parks, who started the business to scrape out a small income by reselling a hodgepodge of home supplies she bought at closeout sales and auctions.
Parks kept track of daily sales on a paper wall calendar and displayed products in boxes instead of on organized shelves in the 5,000-square-foot building.
She needed to sell the business to take care of an ailing family member, so she and Risinger worked out an unconventional deal. Parks financed the sale of the building and land to help Risinger buy it.
Risinger built Parks a home on a separate piece of property in exchange for the business. And Parks continued helping at the store.
Risinger culled Parks’ inventory, bought shelving and upgraded the business practices to include using a computer to collect point of sale data. He also started buying from a hardware wholesaler, choosing a mix of new home improvement and farm products to keep in stock consistently so customers would know what to expect from the store. And he began selling a well-known brand of livestock feed.
Within three years, Risinger was ready to expand the store to keep up with customer needs, so he built a 1,500-square-foot addition to the building. A few years later, Risinger added a feed barn to the property for storing pallets of animal feed that didn’t fit in the store.
In 2019, he also added a 2,600-square-foot feed room to the original store building that now functions as a multiuse space.
The operation, which serves a rural community with a population of less than 15,000 people, sells hardware and lawn and garden products, as well as livestock feed, pet food and farm and ranch supplies. About half of Eagle Hardware’s customers are farmers and ranchers, 25 percent are local DIYers and 25 percent are commercial contractors.
The same year Risinger built the feed room, his daughter Bethany Guevara joined the business full time.
Guevara had spent her middle school and high school years working for her dad at Eagle Hardware, but she moved to Seattle after graduating from college and started a career as a teacher.
When she encountered some difficult life challenges, she decided to move back to Royse City to live near her dad and figure out her next steps. At the time, she began helping in the store occasionally.
Guevara started looking for a full-time job in 2019 at about the same time Risinger had two employees leave. Guevara was interested in working more hours at the store and took on the duties of answering the phone and ordering products. She also brought fresh ideas and enthusiasm with her.
Soon, she was ingrained in all of the operations and eager to grow the store. She saw opportunities to add more store events and tweak the product mix in ways that have improved business.
Now, she serves as store manager and has given Risinger the capacity to grow some other side businesses. He oversees a small neighborhood of bed-and-breakfasts he constructed near the hardware store and leads a custom homebuilding crew that works in the area.
“It is an absolute blast to have Bethany, my own daughter, do so well at the store. She sees this as more than just a job, which frees me up to do more,” Risinger says. “This is fun to me.”
Guevara’s love for the store and the people it serves has opened even more ways to make Eagle Hardware a welcoming space for locals.
For example, her family-friendly Valentine’s Day dance in the feed room brought in 130 people, some of whom had never been to the store. Seasonal activities, such as pumpkin painting, have also been popular.
The store’s Shop the Barn craft fair has provided opportunities for Guevara to develop partnerships with other small business owners. Because of these partnerships, she has been able to expand Eagle Hardware’s array of Texas-made products, making the store a destination for local goods.
Royse City is located about an hour from downtown Dallas and has a population that has grown more than 50 percent over the past 10 years. That growth is continuing, so Guevara expects more opportunities for her family’s business to serve and expand.
Many of the new residents who have recently moved to Royse City have young families and want a more rural lifestyle than they found closer to Dallas. The store’s chick, equine, beekeeping and pond workshops always attract small crowds, with many participants attending to learn about livestock care for the first time.
Free events bring new shoppers, but they also create opportunities for the Eagle Hardware staff to develop relationships with new people.
“When they know we’re here for them, they come back,” Guevara says. “Our big goal is always to grow and serve our community.”