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Borderland Hardware of Mercedes 1919-2014

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Pictured from L-R: Mr. RobertEilers and son Kenneth Eilers. In front of their Borderland Hardware stores that date since 1919, the oldest business in the Mid-Valley.
Pictured from L-R: Mr. Robert Eilers and son Kenneth Eilers. In front of their Borderland Hardware stores that date since 1919, the oldest business in the Mid-Valley.

By Robert and Loretta Eilers

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As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition

Old timers say Borderland Hardware has always been here.  It is the oldest hardware store in the Rio Grande Valley and is now in its 95th year in Mercedes.

In 1908, traveling salesman, E.E. (Jack) Johnson, first visited Mercedes.  Ten years later, he and an associate established Borderland Hardware.  The Mercedes Tribune newspaper stated that a new hardware store would be built on Texas and Second Street and it would open for business Jan. 1, 1919, with a complete line of hardware and implements.

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The entire Valley grew very rapidly in the early part of the 20th century, and at one time, Borderland Hardware Co. had seven hardware and furniture stores in the Valley.

In late 1947, Robert Eilers moved to Mercedes after his army duty in WWII.  He began his employment at Borderland Hardware on Oct. 1, 1949.  At that time, there were company stores in Mercedes, Weslaco, Donna, and McAllen.  He became manager of the Mercedes store in 1955.

When the Borderland Hardware Co. was dissolved on October 1, 1969, the Eilers purchased Borderland Hardware of Mercedes.  Robert’s wife, Loretta, had joined the company in 1966.  Their son, Kenneth, joined the family business after graduating from Texas Lutheran University in 1977.  His wife, Debbie, joined Borderland in 1992.

In 1980, Borderland Hardware was spared atragedy when Baums Men’s Ware, the building next door, was destroyed by fire.  The brick ‘fire wall’ saved Borderland, and there was only smoke damage.

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With business growing and realizing the need for additional parking spaces, in 1999, the Eilers seized the opportunity to purchase one square block, east of the existing location on Business Hwy. 83.  This was the former Mid Valley Ford location. Buildings were demolished, cleared, and the new construction completed in 1999.

After 80 years at Texas and Business 83, the store inventory was moved to the new location at Ohio and Business 83.  This was basically accomplished in one weekend with the help of employees and their families and friends.  The additional space allowed Borderland Hardware to broaden the many lines of merchandise and provide room for expansion and related hardware services with the goal of continuing to serve Mercedes and the mid Valley area.

Robert Eilers received the prestigious “Gold Hammer” award from the Estwing Co. in 1999 “For his 50 years of dedicated service to the hardware industry.”  Kenneth Eilers was elected president of the National Retail Hardware Association in2009.

Yes when you think about it, things have changed a lot in the past 95 years at Borderland Hardware of Mercedes.  But after all this time, there are some things that remain the same: Being a locally owned and operated business and staying true to our commitment of providing the very best in merchandise and service to the many good people who have been coming to us for all their hardware needs. Thank you to our many dedicated employees and loyal customers! TBB

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