By Melissa James,York County Contributor
Through a large rectangular window, two men looked down at 12,500 square feet of shelves, cash registers, inventory and people, that filled the space below.
As they sat at their shared desk, they described well-over 40 years of memories, including the most crucial moments that continue to define their business.
Roger Copenhaver and Ronald Wade are the owners of the True Value store along George Washington Memorial Highway in the Grafton area of York County. The store opened in 1977 and was 7,500 square feet at the time.
But it hasn’t always been a two-man show. Copenhaver and Wade opened the store with John D. “Pete” Sterrett, Jr., who also served as the county’s first executive director of the Industrial Development Authority. In fact, after studying the needs of the community, it was Sterrett who approached Copenhaver and Wade about opening the much-needed hardware store in York County, Copenhaver explained.
That’s when both men switched careers and never looked back.
“I went from selling suits and ties to nuts and bolts,” Copenhaver said with a laugh.
Sterrett passed away in 2005 and both men credit him for True Value’s long-term success and existence. The York County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award is named after Sterrett.
A year after opening, the store expanded by adding another 5,000 square feet to the property. At the time, it served as one of the only outlets in York County to buy hardware and other supplies related to home projects, weather and more.
Today, visitors can walk inside the store and find hardware, paint, cleaning supplies, furniture and more. True Value also sells items including holiday decor, garden tools, materials and equipment for home and business projects.
The Grafton True Value independently operates under the True Value Company brand, Copenhaver explained. The store has stood the test of time by keeping up with industry changes, building strong relationships and overcoming hard times, including a fire in 2002.
“We had this room for odds and ends, repairs, and storage,” Wade recalled. “Something happened in the back room to start the fire. It damaged all of the building in some respect.”
The devastating fire forced the men to move True Value into the current home of Big Lots on Route 17 for around nine months. During that time, the original store location was repaired and restocked and eventually reopened.
According to Wade, it was the York County community and the store’s insurance company that truly helped get the local True Value back on its feet post-fire. The cause of the fire is still undetermined, Wade added.
“We give the community credit for that. They hung with us and that’s still true today,” Wade said gratefully.
Currently, both men continue to have active roles in the businesses’ day-to-day operations. Copenhaver handles the finances and Wade is in charge of buying the latest brands of inventory to sell inside the store. They also help manage their employees and constantly strive to accommodate the diverse needs of their daily customers.
“We haven’t done anything that’s exceptionally outstanding,” Copenhaver said when asked the secret to their long-term success. “Our business has just had a good run in the county.”