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Metzger’s celebrates 70 years of serving Los Alamos

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By Sarah von Sternberg

Metzger’s Do It Best hardware store will celebrate its 70-year anniversary in Los Alamos Saturday, and the public is invited to join the festivities.

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Metzger’s offers a wide variety of items to fulfill any and all practical needs, like building materials, cleaning supplies, hand tools, hardware, housewares, outdoor living, paint and painting supplies, plumbing supplies and much more. 

The first Metzger store was founded by Lee J. Metzger in 1947, and it has been an integral part of the community since its inception.

Technically two years older than the county, Metzger’s boasts being the oldest business in Los Alamos, save for maybe KRSN. The hardware store has been through ownership changes, but has stayed in the same family for four generations.

A comment from Los Alamos resident and Metzger’s customer Roslyn Reeves sums it up nicely: “With the kind of customer service they have, it’s easy to see why they have been around for 70 years.”

The beginning

Metzger’s story began during World War II, when Lee Metzger opened stores within the Hanford Project site in Washington and found success offering basic provisions to workers in the plant.

When the war ended, they shut everything down and Metzger moved to California. While in the process of opening Firestone stores, Metzger heard about the Atomic Energy Commission assigning space in Los Alamos to commercial ventures.

A man named Tommy Thompson pioneered the Los Alamos operation when the AEC assigned space, along with several other “concessionaires” in the old commissary building.

Back then, the operation was surrounded by log cabins and automotive services were done in the fresh, open air.

When the commissary building was torn down in the fall of 1948, all the new businesses were moved to the Community Shopping Center buildings.

In 1951, Metzger was awarded the contract to operate the Western Area Texaco and Firestone Automotive store on Diamond Drive.

The store was eventually converted to a convenience store, which provided much needed service for the western area and north community. The company then expanded to White Rock in 1973, establishing a complete Texaco-Firestone/True Value Hardware store on NM 4.

The original Metzger store moved from the Community Shopping Center to its current location at Central and 15th Street in 1979.

In the years that followed, Metzger’s was affiliated with True Value and, most recently, Do It Best.

According to a 1987 Los Alamos Monitor article celebrating the hardware store’s 40th anniversary, the Metzger brothers “attribute the success of Metzger’s over the years to keeping good people and keeping up with the business and providing quality products.”

Because Metzger’s is a family-owned business, albeit affiliated with Do It Best, all of the decisions regarding products offered are made by the local staff. 

“That’s the key to the connection in Los Alamos,” said General Store Manager David Jolly.

Their mission to provide people in town with what they need in hopes that customers will stop by Metzger’s before they go to Santa Fe.

For example, most hardware stores do not carry housewares anymore, but since there’s a demand for such products in town, Metzger’s carries houseware. 

According to Jolly, there seems to be three types of customers: those that go to Santa Fe, those that go to the local grocery store and those that appreciate simple, basic straightforward products. The latter might say something like, “I just want a damn coffee maker.”

Sure, bigger grocery stores sell coffee pots, perhaps even five different types, but for those looking seeking basic, quality coffee pots, Metzger’s is for them.

When asked if their customer base changed over the years, Jolly replied, “No, because our typical customer base is everybody in town.” He chuckled, “If your toilet breaks, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, it’s the same part.”

For that reason, almost everybody in town will come through and it has always been that way. Their customers, particularly the older crowd, are very loyal and wouldn’t go anywhere else.

While the younger crowd might not see them as special, Jolly hopes that, over time, they will come to rely on Metzger’s.
Some, however, are beginning to make that connection already, mainly because of their exceptional service.

Good customer service

Building relationships is a top priority for the Metzger’s staff. Not only is this standard procedure for Jolly’, it is also the policy of the current storeowner, Greg Metzger.

According to Jolly, upper management tries to hire employees who like to fix things, so when a customer comes in, the employee’s attitude is, “How do I help you with that?” Such a foundation creates room for relationships, so customers can walk in and ask for an employee by name. And vice versa, staff is on a first name basis with regular customers.

Roslyn Reeves has lived in Los Alamos for 14 years and has been a regular patron of Metzger’s ever since.

Reeves said, “They are always very friendly and courteous; however, my most recent trip to the store was marked by exceptional service.”

Nursing a severely broken foot, Reeves faced a dilemma at Metzger’s since she was in need of three gallons of paint and all the extra supplies that go along with a painting project.

“The manager let one of his employees, Marissa, be my personal shopper,” Reeves explained. Such excellent customer service is one of the reasons why Reeves will continue to shop at Metzger’s in the future.

There are even a handful of elderly patrons who, due to mobility issues, simply park outside the store and request what they need from the comfort of their car.

These are just a few examples of how Metzger’s customer service really does go above and beyond.

Over the years, Metzger’s has gone from selling a stereo phonograph for $86.97 at their 20th anniversary in 1967 and offering a microwave oven as a grand prizes, a value of $249.99, for their 40th.

While products and their prices may have changed since the earlier years, Metzger’s commitment to its customers and their needs remains steadfast.