Iconic Hardware Store Is Always There For Mercedes
Through Hurricane Hanna, then during a pandemic, with the ordeal of a days-long freeze to come, there was at least one comforting thought for Mercedes residents.
Borderland Hardware was there with the supplies and items needed to get through a crisis.
It’s what Borderland Hardware has been doing for over 100 years just as it did in that span of time from 2019-to-2021 with those series of hardships.
Borderland’s 22,000-square-foot building on the corner of Business 83 and Ohio Avenue has an imminent presence in downtown Mercedes. Walk through the store’s front doors and an array of items and merchandise unfolds before you. All the saws, drills, pipe wrenches, paints, hammers, plumbing supplies and pipe fittings – and then some – are stocked at Borderland.
It’s the kind of stuff that makes a community work. That’s especially true when catastrophe strikes. A hurricane brings with it different supply needs than does a COVID-19 or a debilitating freeze, but in each case, Borderland was there to help a community through tough times.
“Having grown up here in Mercedes, it’s very gratifying to help our customers solve problems,’’ said Ken Eilers, who runs and owns Borderland with his wife, Debbie, and succeeded his father, Bob, who ran the business for decades before him. “That’s what we’re here for, to solve problems for our customers.’’
One customer, Augustin Perez, lauded Borderland on a Facebook post for helping his family deal with a pressing problem and it featured warmth during the February freeze.
“Shout out to Ken at Borderland Hardware in Mercedes,’’ Perez said. “They let my Dad take this heater, (pictured with post), home with a promise to pay once electricity comes on. They have always been great to my Dad.’’
It’s a way of doing business with a hometown flavor.
Borderland is essential and historic. Borderland Hardware in Mercedes opened in 1919 as the first store of what would become a chain of same-named stores throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Bob Eilers was a longtime Borderland employee and manager, and when the parent company dissolved after 50 years in operation, he purchased the Mercedes store.
Ken Eilers joined the company after graduating from college in the late 1970s. He has become a community fixture in his own right after succeeding his father in the business. It’s a succession of commitment to community that can’t be found at big box stores.
Hometown hardware stores were focal points in their communities for generations. Many have faded and closed with the opening of the corporate superstores. Mercedes is fortunate that it still has such a first rate, community-based hardware store that is woven into its city.
“My concern when (hometown) hardware stores close is that new ones don’t come in afterwards,’’ Ken Eilers said. “Everything goes to the big boxes. They just don’t offer the kind of knowledge we do to solve problems.’’
Eilers’ knowledge is recognized nationally. He is a former president of the North American Retail Hardware Association. Ken made the cover of the Hardware Retailing magazine during his tenure, with Borderland Hardware in the background.
The iconic store celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019 and its century in business was recognized by the Mercedes Historic Preservation Commission. A plaque by the store’s entrance reads, in part: “In recognition of Borderland Hardware, founded in 1919, for more than 100 years of continuous service to the people of Mercedes and for the contribution to the growth and vitality of our city.’’
-Ricardo D. Cavazos