Synonymous with “true value” is Breeding’s True Value Hardware in Winterset. Not just because it is in their store name: it is by virtue of the five generations of family who have had a desire to serve their customers and the community.

A century of service 

Rick Breeding’s grandfather, Charles “Charley” Breeding, started the business in 1920 on the south side of the Winterset square. He briefly had an operation behind the Wight and Short Service station presently located on north John Wayne Drive before moving to the square. 

Soon to become a family operation, after opening the store Charles Breeding’s wife, Albia, and their two teenage sons, Farris (WHS Class of 1925) and James (WHS Class of 1927), began to work with him. 

In the 1940s, Rick Breeding’s mother Lois (Farris was his father) and his Aunt Wessie, James’ wife established their roles in the business. Rick’s brother Larry (WHS Class of 1954)  joined the staff in 1973 and Rick (WHS Class of 1971) began work in 1975.

As the family lineage continued, Rick’s sons Greg and Ryan began working for the hardware store as teenagers on a part time basis in the 1990s and then expanded their hours to full time after college. Debbie Breeding, Rick’s wife, started at the store in 1998 after it moved off of the square to its present location north of Hwy. 92 on North John Wayne Drive. 

Daughter Angie joined the family operation full time in 2016. Her four children – Taylor, Chelsie, Brad, and Matt Benshoof – have also been employed there. 

Not all of Charles’ children worked at the store; three girls – Veva, Evelyn, and  Vanna – were not involved with the business.

“I think the desire to serve our customers and our community has led to the longevity of our store,” commented Rick Breeding. 

“We are a pioneer family in Madison County, and are very proud of our heritage. Through every advertisement used long ago to promote the store our slogan was always “The Home of Family Service”.

Changes through time

Breeding said that there are many challenges that are faced when working in a family owned store. 

For the buyers, owners need to have the right products, at the right price and the continued customer service to keep the patrons coming back.

“Our hardware store has seen a lot of changes in the last 100 years,” Breeding continued. 

As transportation increased, people were able to travel to the big city (Des Moines) to shop. Prior to that time, most of Madison County shopped locally. 

Breeding's store, 1922

A glimpse of Breeding’s from 1922.

In the early to mid-20th Century there were at least six hardware stores on or near the square. Then came the competition of the big box stores, seemed to be on a mission to eliminate the family hardware stores. 

Technology within the last 20 years has created an enormous amount of assistance as well as competition. 

“I think that scanning barcodes, ordering from the computer and transacting sales by credit cards would be hard for Grandpa Charley to grasp,” said Breeding.

Breeding’s True Value Hardware has survived all the challenges of owning a family business. It is hoped that after Rick officially retires from the business his children – Greg, Ryan, and Angie – will carry the torch into the next millennium.

Managing editor at the Madisonian.