Have you ever found yourself in need of a specific item to fix an issue around your house? Maybe it’s a specialty bolt, a hand tool, or an AC filter. The next thing you know, you find yourself wandering the aisles of a large hardware warehouse, scanning row after row of items that aren’t your specialty bolt, hand tool, or AC filter. After you finally give up searching on your own, you spend the next ten minutes hunting down an employee, searching aisle by aisle, hoping someone can direct you to your item.
That frustration and disappointment is a waste of time when you have the convenience and superior customer service that is offered at your neighborhood hardware store, Blankenships’ Universal Supply, Inc. in the Midtown community on Springhill Avenue. If you’ve ever walked into Blankenships, you know the welcome feeling you have as you enter the door. If it’s not Mike or Tommy greeting you at the counter, ready to help, then it may just be the friendly, store cat.
Blankenships’ Universal Supply, Inc. opened in 1949 through the hard work of Thomas Blankenship of Little Rock, Arkansas. In the early 1940s, Thomas worked for Pittsburgh Glass and was transferred from his home in Little Rock to Mobile, Alabama. When the building at 1305 Springhill Avenue became available to rent, Thomas chose to open a hardware store and glass company, leaving his job with Pittsburgh Glass. Thomas later purchased the building at a time when there were seven hardware stores within a two-mile radius. Today, Blankenships’ is the only one of those seven stores that still remains.
Today, Blankenships’ Universal Supply is a retail store providing products that include hardware, household goods, lawn and garden supplies, pet food and supplies, building materials, and more. It is owned by two of Thomas Blankenshps’ sons, Mike and Tommy. Both sons grew up in the hardware store working alongside their father and have continued to work there their entire lives. Ten years ago, Mike’s son, Mick Blankenship, left his career in accounting, joining his dad and uncle at the store.
Since the store’s opening as a hardware and glass company, the inventory has grown steadily to include pet food and supplies, and more recently, building supplies. While their goal at Blankenships is to supply their customers any goods that they desire at competitive prices, they do so with the superior customer service that makes you feel like a friend rather than a customer.
Some of the biggest inspirations that the Blankenship family have are their customers, and they cherish the relationships that they have built over the years with their customers and neighbors. It’s having those relationships that brings them the most joy. Besides loving their role as a part of the historic midtown community, they are also proud to be a part of its history and to add to the character that charms so many. And it’s the character of the store that draws you back. More times than they could suggest, people have told the Blankenship family that a reality show should be filmed in the store. With a vast array of characters who come in on a daily basis, and the store cat that gets chuckles by sneaking up and scaring unsuspecting customers, laughs are a part of daily life. Like Floyd’s barber shop on the Andy Griffth Show, there are many locals who will drop in just to say hi or gossip.
In addition, animal rescue has become an important part of Blankenships as well. Mike’s wife, Valerie, is Save a Stray’s director in charge of rescuing cats. Her son is the treasurer for the New Beginnings Animal Rescue. Some people like to stop in just to visit the cats that are being fostered or are up for adoption.
Blankenships has been making changes to expand their brick and mortar store, but in addition, they are expanding their sales onto the online market. Now, you can shop locally online at blankenshipsuniversalsupply.com. The inventory that is available online is much more than they can keep in the Springhill Avenue store.
The next time you have a hardware need, a DYI or fix-it question, or just want to stop in and say hello, take the time to stop into your neighborhood hardware store, Blankenships’ Universal Supply, Inc. and see the expansions they have made, in addition to all the inventory that they are able to offer the Midtown community and its customers.