11 home-improvement chains that rose up before Home Depot and Lowe's took over the industry

When we talk about home-improvement retail, we’re essentially talking about two different companies: Home Depot and Lowe’s.

These two behemoth companies dominate the whole market. But that wasn’t always the case.

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Throughout the 20th century, plenty of home-improvement chains sprung up around the US. But the business proved increasingly competitive and unforgiving over time.

Here are a number of home-improvement chains that have disappeared:

Builders Square launched in 1970 and grew quickly from there. Kmart bought the home-improvement retailer in 1984. Builders Square became a major player in the do-it-yourself business, but its downfall began after Kmart arranged a merger with rival Hechinger. When Hechinger filed to liquidate in 1999, all Builders Square stores shut down.

Tim Boyle/Getty ImagesKmart bought Builders Square.

Source: Chicago Tribune, New York Times

Two brothers from New Jersey launched Rickel in 1953. The company expanded quickly and was bought up by Supermarkets General Corporation in 1969. The struggles of Rickel’s parent company, as well as a controversial 1995 lawsuit against Home Depot, hurt the home-improvement retailer. All Rickel stores had closed by the end of 1997.

Source: New York Times, New York Times

Scotty’s Builders Supply first cropped up as Home Builders Supply in 1924 and changed its name in 1968. Scotty’s ultimately shuttered forever in 2005.

Scottnj1966 / Wikimedia CommonsA Scotty’s-sponsored race car.

Source: Orlando Sentinel

Ernst Home Centres was one of the first home-improvement chains in the US, opening its doors in Seattle in 1893. Pay ‘n Save bought Ernst in 1960 and later sold it off. The company went public in 1994, but it went out of business within three years.

Source: Deseret News

Channel Home Centres officially opened in 1948. The chain ceased to exist after it merged with rival company Rickel in 1994. Channel Home Centres’ Handy Dan spinoff effectively created Home Depot by firing the two executives who went on to found the now-dominant home-improvement retailer in 1979. Most of the remaining Channel Home Centres were converted to Rickel stores, and the few hold-outs didn’t survive Rickel’s 1997 liquidation.

Courtesy of The Home DepotHome Depot founders Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank were fired from Handy Dan.

Source: Business Insider, Baltimore Sun

Founded in 1930 in Kansas City, Payless Cashways expanded to become a national retailer over the decades. But fierce competition and a disastrous 1988 stock-buyback bid kneecapped Payless Cashways. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1997 and liquidated after the dot-com bubble burst in 2001.

A G Baxter/ShutterstockPayless Cashways was founded in Kansas City.

Source: Memphis Business Journal,The Oklahoman

Pay ‘n Pak was founded in 1962, going public just seven years later. In order to thwart corporate raid, the business reverted to a private company in 1988. The company’s stores were all liquidated or sold off to Thurman Industries in 1992, and Thurman subsequently liquidated in 2003.

Junnell/Wikimedia CommonsPay ‘n Pak first launched in Kent, Washington.

Source: Seattle Times,Deseret News

Orchard Supply Hardware started out as a co-op founded by orchard owners in 1931. In the 1950s, the co-op transformed into a for-profit business and began to expand. In 1996, Sears bought the company and later resold it to Lowe’s in 2013. Lowe’s closed all the remaining Orchard Supply Hardware stores in 2018.

Tony Avelar /AP Images for Orchard Supply HardwarAn Orchard Supply Hardware interacts with a customer.

Source: Business Insider

Handy Andy Home Improvement Center wasn’t founded by a man named Andy. Founder Joseph Rashkow opened up his first Chicago-based store as Arrow Lumber Company in 1947. The company was renamed Handy Andy in 1971. The business went bankrupt in 1995 and closed the following year.

Scott Olson/Getty ImagesHandy Andy launched in Chicago.

Source: New York Times

Hechinger first opened in 1911, becoming one of the first companies to focus on do-it-yourself home-improvement shoppers. The company’s stores were liquidated in 1999 after Hechinger went bankrupt. The brand survived for a decade more as an online retailer.

WVP/Wikimedia CommonsA Hechinger store.

Source: Washington Post

Founded in 1984 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Home Quarters Warehouse was the brainchild of W.R. Grace & Co., a chemical business looking to jump into a new market. Three years later, home-improvement retailer Hechinger bought the new business. When Hechinger closed in 1999, HQ followed suit.

Source: Daily Press

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