What is the key to longtime success? "Location, location, location," according to Harry Cogswell, 86, a founder of Apex Feed and Supply and True Value Hardware.
The business, which Cogswell opened in 1952 with Ohio State University buddies Bob Holdren and Dan Graham - who stepped out in 1976 and 1986 respectively - sits at 600 Greene St., near a busy intersection where a lot of new buildings have cropped up and a lot of traffic passes by on a daily basis.
"It's good. We're in a good place," said the elder Cogswell, who turned ownership of Apex over to sons Ben and Russ in 2007. Another son, Dan, is not involved in the business. "You get the people driving by and they may slow down, they may drive past you. But next time they may turn in."
ERIN O’NEILL The Marietta Times
Harry Cogswell, a founder of Apex Feed and Supply, shows a photo of the business at 600 Greene St., as it stood in the 1970s.
ERIN O’NEILL The Marietta Times
Russ Cogswell, who currently owns and operates Apex with brother Ben, stands with his father and the business’s founder, Harry Cogswell. Apex Feed and Supply has been in operation since 1952.
When Apex opened in its present location, nestled against Don Drumm stadium and overlooking Marietta College, there was a Monongahela Power substation and a Pennsylvania Railroad track running along what is now Pike Street.
All of that is gone now, of course, and replaced by grocery stores and numerous fast food restaurants.
"It's progress," Cogswell said with a knowing smile.
At a glance
Apex Feed and Supply
Located at 600 Greene St., Marietta.
30,000 square feet.
Hardware, agricultural and farm equipment and supplies.
Started by Harry Cogswell, Dan Graham and Bob Holdren.
Currently operated by Cogswell brothers Ben and Russ.
1952 - Harry Cogswell, Bob Holdren and Dan Graham founded Apex Hardware at 600 Greene St.
1976 - Bob Holdren steps back to pursue other endeavors.
1986 - Dan Graham steps back to pursue other endeavors.
2007 - Cogswell turns ownership over to sons, Russ and Ben, but remains a big part of the business.
With progress has also come big chain stores like Kmart, Lowe's and Walmart farther down the pike. Coincidentally, Cogswell's family had a farm at the current Walmart location back in 1827. But he doesn't let the competition get him down.
"It's always tough but at the same time they keep you sharper," he said. "You realize you're not the only game in town and you have to try to be more courteous and more attentive ... I think we are that ... in order to have someone come in the second or third time, he knows he can get good service and that's the whole secret."
Offering specialized items, such as the hundreds of thousands of vegetable boxes they sell, key making and blade sharpening services, providing landscaping needs to golf courses and college campuses - all of these things have helped to fill the void when other services are no longer needed.
"Originally, when there was a lot of farming in this area, we ground feed in big mixers here," Cogswell said, waving towards a space in the big retail shop. "But that all left, farmers quit ... so we just modified (the business) into hardware and other items."
A longtime customer of Apex is Bucky Lee, manager of nearby Food 4 Less, who has known the family for 40 years.
"We buy a lot of stuff off Harry and the boys ... they have a lot of specialty items and they know what they're talking about," he said. "It's that hometown thing. We always support local business and their service is second to none."
Another secret to longevity in an ever-changing landscape is to treat your employees like family.
Rita Stollar has been with the business for 28 years, which is not uncommon in this company where turnover is very minimal. She started out as a store clerk and has been the office manager for the past 15 years.
"You name it and I do it," Stollar laughed.
It helps that the owners are very personable and treat the employees very well.
"We all have kids, we all have things that we have going on at home and they understand that," she said.
While raising their own families who have gone off on other endeavors, the Cogswell offspring Ben and Russ have taken their father's vision from 62 years ago and moved into the 21st century, incorporating the latest technology and keeping up with changing industries.
Ben, for example, oversees a new facet of the business - FL Tanks on Gilman Avenue - that provides polypropylene containment tanks for individual use and for use in the oil and gas industry.
Switching over to computers to keep records and installing cameras to keep an eye on shoplifters are just a couple more ways Apex has grown with the times. But the personal touch will never change if Harry Cogswell has anything to do with it.
"Just something as simple as handwriting 'thank you' on the receipt ... it's just little things like that," he said.