Mahogany Browne is a poet, writer, organizer and educator. Recently, she became the first-ever poet-in-residence at the Lincoln Center in…
A small-town store manager's Brief But Spectacular take on helping people
Amna Nawaz: Rose Rustman has been the manager at Arrow Hardware and Paint in St. Peter, Minnesota, for 30 years.
She's become a community observer and leader in this town of 11,000. Tonight, Rustman shares her Brief But Spectacular take on life as a hardware store clerk.
Rose Rustman, Manager, Arrow Hardware and Paint: We had a little man once come to the counter, and he -- his faucet was dripping. I said: "All you need is this little 39 cent washer"
"No, I don't."
I go: "Yes, that's really all you need. It's 39 cents."
So, I took a penny out of my pocket, slapped it on the counter, and said: "Bet you a penny that I'm right."
And he goes: "Oh, big better."
I took another penny out, slammed it: "Double or nothing."
Next day, came in, slapped four pennies on the calendar and said: "I will never argue with you again."
I am the store manager of Arrow Hardware and Paint in St. Peter, Minnesota. My mother was in retail and my dad was an auto mechanic. And so I didn't go to day care. I either went to the auto repair garage or I went to Lewis Eastgate, my mom's place of work. I was raised, if you're smart enough to take it apart, you better darn well be smart enough to put it back together.
Every day is about the same, but every day is different. So, you come to work, you open the door. People come and go. You teach people how to fix things. You help fix their problems. Being at the hardware store entails more than just selling products. It's being a good person, listening to people. Our customers become our friends.
We have seen people with their first pets, their first children, and they all come to the counter, and they share their stories with us.
When I was hired, there was about 15 employees and two females. I was in charge of clothing, gifts and housewares. And then, over time, I like to learn, and so I started learning more about the guys' departments. I never felt that I had to prove myself to my co-workers. It was never a competition. We were always a great team working together, learning off each other.
So, in '98, the store manager left, and then my co-workers wrote the owner a letter that said: "Do not overlook Rose just because she's female. You should give her a shot."
And, 30 years later, here I am. It's empowering to be able to help other people with things that they're unsure of. I have no plans on retiring as long as I like what I do. I love the customers. It's home, actually.
My name is Rose Rustman, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on life as a hardware store clerk.
Geoff Bennett: Ms. Rustman has some words to live by. If you're smart enough to take it apart, you better be smart enough to put it back together.
Amna Nawaz: I love that. I love that so much. It goes back to what I always say. Everyone has a story to tell.
Geoff Bennett: Yes.
Amna Nawaz: We thank you, Rose, for sharing yours with us.
And you can watch more Brief But Spectacular videos online any time at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.