Courtesy of Anuta Research Center
Northern Hardware & Supply Co., of Menominee was a major wholesaler and distributor of supplies for industries and the construction trades for more than a century. For most of its life, the company was located at 705 6th Ave. The company later was a subsidiary of Shadbolt & Boyd Co. of Milwaukee. Northern Hardware ceased operations in June 1979 after a 116-year life span. 
Courtesy of Anuta Research Center

Northern Hardware & Supply Co., of Menominee was a major wholesaler and distributor of supplies for industries and the construction trades for more than a century. For most of its life, the company was located at 705 6th Ave. The company later was a subsidiary of Shadbolt & Boyd Co. of Milwaukee. Northern Hardware ceased operations in June 1979 after a 116-year life span. 

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Harold Eastburg came from a tiny hamlet in Mid-Menominee County and turned his life into a productive one. Born in Talbot, his family moved to Menominee when Harold was at a young age.

Talbot once was the home of the Menominee County Infirmary, a county-owned facility that housed poor families. Eastburg later returned to the once-thriving logging hamlet and served as superintendent of the “poor house” in the 1930s, a seven-year tenure he never regretted. 

He became one of the city’s most respected community leaders after settling in the city where he was engaged in the hardware business. He began his career at Northern Hardware & Supply Co., a major distributor of hardware products for industries, construction companies, plumbing, electrical and carpentry contractors. The hardware operation was located at the current site of Northern Coatings & Chemical, 705 6th Ave.

He attended school in Menominee through the eighth grade and went to work in Chicago for three years before returning to his rooted area and launched his career at Northern Hardware & Supply Co., in 1919. He left the hardware business in 1926 to assume the top administrative post at the Menominee County Infirmary. 

Anxious to return to the hardware business, he rejoined Northern Hardware in 1940 where we was a salesman. The company had a broad market in Michigan and Wisconsin. His earlier stint at the company prepared him well for the sales force. He worked in the warehouse section on the company campus and worked other job assignments while learning the trade. An affable person, Harold was a perfect fit for selling the company’s broad line of products. 

His superiors at Northern Hardware realized his skills in salesmanship, discipline for details and his superb ability in the handling of people — from customers to fellow workers and the public in general. He was promoted to vice president and general manger of the company in 1956. He also served on the corporate board of directors. 

Northern Hardware was later sold to Shadbolt & Boyd Co. based in Milwaukee, but Eastburg continued in his role with the Menominee company. At the time of Eastburg’s retirement in 1969, Northern Hardware employed 22 workers at the Menominee facility and 125 employees were on the payroll at the Shadbolt & Boyd facility in Milwaukee. 

Perhaps Northern Hardware’s largest sales spurts were in the post-World War II period when building and construction business peaked. I was a summertime employee at the hardware store during those years. My neighbor, Don LaCourt, and I were assigned inventory duties. Counting nuts, bolts, gauges, nails and a host of different sized fittings might seem like a boring job to some people, but to my buddy and I, it meant a paycheck every two weeks in the summer. And we didn’t have calculators or computers to help us. We did it the way Ross Taylor, our high school math teacher, taught us. 

The sizable work crew included many veterans who served in the war. They were all helpful and polite to a couple of high school kids who did the work they didn’t want to do.

Eastburg’s wife Alice, a native of Ishpeming, Mich., taught grade school at the old Washington School on 2nd Street and 9th Avenue, now a municipal parking lot. 

Eastburg was active in an array of community activities. notably the Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce and the Menominee Industrial Commission. The latter organization playing a big role in pushing for economic development at a time when the city was hard-pressed for jobs. 

He also was active on the Menominee Elks Club and Rotary Club and served on the board of directors at Commercial Bank in downtown Menominee. 

Northern Hardware & Supply was one of Menominee’s oldest companies. It was established in 1863 during the logging and sawmill boom and observed it’s 100th anniversary in 1963. The company was phased out in June of 1979, a run of 116 years. The company was at its 705-6th Ave. location since 1900, a string of 79 years.

Employees honored Eastburg at a retirement party at Riverside Country Club in June 1969 when he ended his 36-year career with the company. E.O. Pape, president of Northern Hardware and Shadbolt & Boyd was there for the celebration. 

At his retirement event, Eastburg said he was fortunate that he could be with one company for so many years and noted how staying-power was fading from the labor trade in 1969, citing how the younger generations were constantly on the move when it came to work.

From Talbot to Menominee, from warehouse employee to vice president and general manger of a company, and a willing community contributor in many ways, Eastburg proved that ambition, hard work and endurance is a good model to follow.