A Southside mom-and-pop hardware store still thrives against the big chains

By Nancy Price

Shopping at a large home improvement store chain such as Mendards, Lowe’s or Home Depot is convenient if you have a lot of items on your list. You can check out a variety of options for flooring, electrical, bathroom and kitchen needs, in addition to home décor and furniture, gardening, storage, tools and even pet food and groceries.

Yet, what happens when you need assistance finding an air filter that the representative from your heating and air company recommended to prevent overheating the heat exchanger? Do you find yourself walking a marathon just to locate an associate who’s still in high school and has never even changed a filter?

Ray Bauman, left, sold Suding Hardware to his son Brad in 2016. (Photos by Neal Smith)

What if you need just one nail for a specific project and have to purchase an entire box full of nails that may or may not work for what you need?

Yes, big chains may offer convenience, but what do you do if you need to save money and want quality customer service?

Suding Hardware is a Southside mom-and-pop hardware store, the type of store that is so rare nowadays it’s practically in danger of becoming extinct. Started in 1932 by Henry Suding, the store originally shared half of its space with Garfield Bakery before expanding to include houseware hardware, glassware, carpenter and mechanic tools and gift items. Today, the store is owned by Henry’s great-grandson Brad Bauman. Brad’s father Ray Bauman, who still works at Suding, sold the business to his son in 2016. The Baumans are Perry Township residents.

Suding Hardware is a fourth-generation-run business started by Henry Suding in 1932.

“Customer service is what keeps the business going,” said Brad, who graduated from Roncalli High School in 1998 and began working at the store since he was in high school. “It’s that small-town feel. The location, I think, is a big thing. We have local neighborhood customers.”

Ray, who grew up waiting on customers, answering their questions and solving their problems, agreed, adding “He’s (the customer) not going to make me $1 million on ever sale, but I’m here for the guy that wants his problems solved and needs an answer.”

Suding Hardware offers window and screen repair services, cuts keys and sells glass cut to size. It also provides simple plumbing and electrical items, drywall, frames, lock sets and sells everything by the piece, including nuts, bolts and screws.

Ray Bauman answers questions from a customer.

Steve M. of Indianapolis provided a review of the store, stating, “The skills and tools they often use are a lost art in today’s ‘It’s broken, so I’ll buy new’ mentality. If they can repair a 40-year-old mechanical item that would cost $300 to replace, with $6.95 in parts and 30 minutes of their time and expertise, that’s exactly what they will do. I have saved hundreds of dollars simply by walking through their door and explaining my situation to Ray and his crew.”

Gilliam S. of Indianapolis added, “I’m the daughter of a do-it-yourselfer so naturally that spirit lives on in me. My family lives out of state, so through they can provide guidance I’m always stumped as to where to go for certain items. Now, I have found it and better yet, they give great advice! This is the kind of old-school neighborhood place I have been needing in my life.”

Suding Hardware is located at 2218 Shelby St., Indianapolis, IN, 46203. For more information, call (317) 784-2850 or go to Facebook: Suding Hardware.

Customers can buy what they want by the piece, including nuts, bolts and screws.

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH BRAD BAUMAN

  1. WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

The family tradition involved in it.

  1. IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

There is nothing I would change. I am only 39 … but so far … no regrets. I was always taught that you play the cards you are dealt.

  1. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOUR FREE TIME?

Watching my two sons play the various sports they are involved in

  1. DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL VACATION.

On a beach, sitting in a beach chair, with my feet in the water and the waves washing up around me. That is relaxing to me.

  1. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT?

Fiesta Ranchera. Great food, wonderful staff, location and pleasant atmosphere.