Ed Kaz was born and raised on a farm near Monticello and attended a one-room schoolhouse. He didn’t attend high school because he couldn’t afford to board in town. He was the younger of two boys. At age 22 Ed was drafted during the Korean Conflict. When he returned from the Army in 1953, he went to work in Maple Lake doing on-the-job training for the Veterans Administration. He went to Minneapolis to look for a job and found that it was difficult to get a job without an education. An agency sent him to W. E. Lahr (Welco), an automotive wholesale company, where he was told to come back later when there might be jobs available. Ed said he needed a job and would work for thirty days, and if they weren’t satisfied with him, he would quit. He got the job and stayed two years.
Ed and Donna Maurice were married in 1956. Donna was born in Annandale. Her dad was a mail carrier and transferred to Monticello. That’s where they met. Donna was an R.N. and supervised a nursing home. They had a home in Minneapolis and things were going well, but they didn’t really like living in the city.
Ed and Donna came to Annandale in September 1958. Donna’s uncle, Lucian Maurice, had worked twenty years at Dunton Hardware. Lucian asked Ed if he would like to buy the hardware store. The owners, brothers Homer and Tubber Dunton, wanted to retire. Homer, an accountant, did the books and managed the hardware store and Edwin “Tubber” was the mortician. Ed and Lucian could have had the mortuary as part of the business, but passed on it. It was a good business located in the former bank building (present law office). The mortuary was originally located in the back of the hardware store. There were sliding doors separating the hardware store from the mortuary. After the mortuary moved to the former bank building, Minnesota Implements, farm machinery made by prisoners, was sold from that space. Ed showed a photo of a Minnesota Implements hay mower.
Ed Kaz and Lucian Maurice found a private investor, got two mortgages, and became fifty-fifty partners in the Maurice & Kaz Our Own Hardware store. They started in business October 15, 1958. Ed took over the bookkeeping. Homer Dunton lived upstairs over the store, and he taught Ed the bookkeeping system. Homer was a small gentleman and did all of his book work standing up. He was very exacting in his work. Ed and Lucian struggled financially for awhile. After 15 years, Lucian Morris wanted to retire and Ed bought him out.
The Dunton Hardware store was the oldest building in Annandale. In 1979 plans were made to tear down the building. Russell’s Bar was next door. Ed was able to buy the bar, and Stanley Miller tore the building down for the materials. The merchandise was moved, and the hardware store was also torn down. The basements in both buildings were filled in. Lyman Lumber drew the plans for the new store, and local contractors were asked to bid. Dick Vossen was the low bidder; Allen Hentges did the brick work; Larry Freeman did the electrical; Herb Gall’s company did the plumbing.
At a hardware convention Donna signed up for a trip to Monaco, and Ed and Donna went ahead with the trip. They were gone two weeks, and Kaz Hardware employees, Don Houskins, Eileen Frieler and Gus Goltz, moved all the merchandise in two weeks in time for the wrecking ball.
The grand opening for the new hardware store was in November 1979. Air corn poppers were new at that time, and Ed said that he sold 112 of them in three days.
Improvements were made over the years. A rental department was added. In 2009 the biggest change will take place – the hardware store will be completely computerized. Ed said he likes doing things with a pencil. Ed said that he could call the Will Call desk at 11 a.m. and pick up the freight at 3 p.m. at the Our Own Hardware warehouse off of Washington Avenue in Minneapolis. He doubts that computers can do it any faster.
In 1997 Our Own Hardware, a Minnesota based dealer cooperative, was combined with another co-op, Hardware Wholesalers, Inc. Hardware Wholesalers name has changed to Do It Best. Kaz Hardware is now Kaz Do It Best Hardware and Rental.
Ed has been in the hardware business in Annandale for over 50 years. He said that the business has done well over the years. They don’t sell luxury items; their merchandise and services are needed even when the economy is down. The plumbing department did well. Ed hired a lot of young people at the hardware store. A few of them were Gus Goltz, who worked at the store for 20 years; Dwayne Bruns (4 ½ year employee) and Gary Partridge.
Ed and Donna have three children (two daughters, Valerie and Trude, and son, Joe). Joe Kaz is now the owner of Kaz Hardware. Ed is “retired” but still works in the store every day. Ed said that Annandale is a great little town with beautiful lakes and a pretty good business district. Ed enjoyed the hardware business. Every day was different. The only thing he regrets is that he was too busy and didn’t spend the time he’d like with his family.
Ed told the following stories from his years in business. The hardware store sold stoves. Ed told the buyer to let his old stove cool down the day of delivery so that it could be removed. When he got there, the stove was red hot, and they had to wait for it to cool. The buyer said, “As long as we have to wait, you can clean the chimney.”
Dunton’s Hardware always had a toy sale before Christmas, so Kaz Hardware continued the tradition. Ed always enjoyed picking out the toys for the sale. They gift wrapped all the Christmas gifts. Sometimes they had so many items to gift wrap that they needed to come back in at night. Homer Dunton’s wife enjoyed gift wrapping and she often helped.
Kaz Hardware sold a lot of window shades. They had a large order for shades for a lake home. The customer didn’t know how to install the shades, so Ed did it. The price of the shades was $1.89 each and Ed sold them for $2.00 installed.
Every year Ed spent two or three days at the hardware convention buying merchandise for his store. There were drawings for prizes, but Minnesota dealers never seemed to win the big prizes until Ed won a new 1977 Oldsmobile.