Meet your merchant: Despite the big name, the Sears Hometown Store really is a family-owned business | TheUnion.com

Meet your merchant: Despite the big name, the Sears Hometown Store really is a family-owned business

Debbie and Allen Kratz purchased the Sears Hometown Store, an independent franchise, in July of this year.

At the age of 16, Debbie Kratz landed her first job at Sears in Yuba City. She worked as Santa's helper, helping children pose while getting their holiday photographs taken. As luck would have it, there was a handsome young sales associate named Allen in the adjacent hardware and paint department who caught her eye.

Today, more than 40 years later — now with three children and nine grandchildren — Debbie and Allen Kratz say they've come full circle, as they've recently purchased the Sears Hometown Store in Grass Valley.

After a 26-year career at Hewlett-Packard, Allen's job was abruptly outsourced overseas, leaving him in search of a new job. After working several years as a real estate appraiser, he was eager for more stimulation. He and Debbie had long dreamed of owning their own business, so when they learned that Ron Gaynor was retiring and selling the Sears Hometown franchise in Grass Valley, they jumped at the chance.

"We only had three weeks to decide," said Allen. "But it was a pretty easy decision — it seemed like a good fit for us."

In July, the Kratzes got the keys the store, and have since immersed themselves in the daily workings of owning an independent franchise.

"We are deeply grateful to our employees, some of whom have been here over 10 years," said Debbie. "Their wealth of knowledge is invaluable — we call them our 'gems.'"

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Their parent company, Sears Hometown, is now a separate entity and no longer affiliated with the struggling Sears Holding Corporation, which operates through its subsidiaries, including Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart Corporation. For this reason, the Kratzes are able to make independent decisions when it comes to their inventory. Unlike the Sears Holding Corporation, Sears Hometown in Grass Valley will continue to carry tried-and-true brands, such as Whirlpool and KitchenAide appliances.

While Debbie says she's got plans to make the showroom a little more "homey," it will still continue to feature a broad selection of washers, dryers, vacuums, dishwashers, beds, barbecues, garbage disposals, water filters and softeners, weed whackers, leaf blowers, chain saws, pressure washers, snowblowers and more. There are even a couple of end-of-season kayaks on sale near the cash registers.

"We carry a lot of really good name products, and if you don't see what you want here in the store, we can order it or you can buy it at our online store and have it delivered here," said Allen. "Our main focus is offering excellent customer service. We want our customers to feel as though they've been educated on all the options and to have a good experience while they're here."

"I was a server at Wings Grill in Auburn for more than a decade," said Debbie. "I understand the value of loyal customers — we're looking forward to getting to know our customers here."

When it comes to delivery and installation, in addition to one of their nine employees, the store contracts with Hale Appliance Services, Kirk Brothers Plumbing and Aable Appliance Services.

Another focus going forward, said Debbie, is becoming an integral part of the community. In preparation for the holidays, customers who donate $5 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation between Nov. 19 and 22 will receive a 10 percent discount coupon to be used toward a future purchase.

"It's always been important for us to help out," said Debbie. "We're big on giving back."

Located on Idaho-Maryland Road next door to Byers Enterprises, the Kratzes encourage community members to pop in, see what's new and introduce themselves.

"We have such fond memories of Sears when we started our life together — this setting feels very familiar to us," said Debbie. "We bought this business the day before our 41st wedding anniversary. We've truly come full circle."

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.

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Sears Hometown Store

129 Idaho-Maryland Rd., Grass Valley

530-273-9511

http://www.SearsHometownGrassValley.com

Facebook: Sears Hometown Store Grass Valley

Hours: 9:30 am. To 6:30 p.m., Mon. through Sat.

9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays

11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays

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