Editor’s note: This story was previously published in the Daily News, but because it contained errors we are rerunning it.
GREENSBURG – One of Greensburg’s remaining locally-owned small businesses will soon call it quits.
Pleak’s Do It Center, run by Rick Pleak and his sister, Cheryl Linville, will close their doors and go out of business after the 2019 holiday season.
Decatur County Memorial Hospital has purchased the property on which the store is currently located.
That offer, combined with an increasingly difficult time finding enough dependable workers to properly run the business, contributed to the decision to call it quits.
Why don’t the Pleaks look for someone to buy the business?
Linville explained that Rick had no children, and her own children live elsewhere.
Rick chimed in with, “Before Jimmy Carter, we had all farm accounts, and farmers would pay everything once a year when the crops were in. But when Jimmy Carter took over, we lost all those farm accounts. All the little guys got gobbled up by the big ones, and so that part of the business went away.”
A long history
Sixty-one years ago, Walter and Freda May (Volz) Pleak decided to buy Corbett and Craig’s Hardware in downtown Greensburg.
Walter Pleak was a traveling buttermilk salesman for National Dairy and Freda Mae, as was customary at the time, was a stay-at-home mother for Cheryl, 10, and Richard, 3. Walter yearned to be home with his wife and family, so in 1958, with just a few dollars in his pocket, the family bought the 87 year old business and renamed it “Pleak’s Hardware and Appliances, A Keen Kutter store!”
“I remember every Wednesday afternoon, Mom, Dad, Rick and I would go to the big city of Indianapolis to get hardware and appliances. It was so much fun! He would drop us off to shop on our own, and when he picked us up afterward his truck was always full of merchandise to sell,” Linville said. “It was on Main Street then, and had hardwood floors that ‘talked to you’ each and every step, a greasy nut and bolt rack, and hardware bins for nails and screws.”
Linville recalls the store featured Speed Queen wringer washers, gas and wood heating stoves, and a wide range of household appliances.
According to Cheryl, the store motto was, “If you can’t find it I’ll try my best to find it or make it for you.”
Pleak’s also sold and delivered Skelgas in 100-pound bottles in those early days, and there was even an elevator to take you upstairs or downstairs.
“Back then, all downtown merchants closed their stores every Wednesday afternoon and were all open every Friday night,” Linville recalled.
“Mother and Dad always let Rick and I do what we wanted to help them. I liked working on window displays and Rick helped Dad put things together. Once in a while, I would sneak out to go to Doerflinger’s Music Store to get a 45 or a 78 album and a Mounds candy bar at Beason’s Drug Store,” Linville continued. “We helped in every department! Mother was the bookkeeper, but she would let me do posting and filing. Things were different when we were young. We never had a lot of money, but that store put myself and my brother through college.”
Having majored in Interior Design (specializing in kitchens and bath design), both she and her brother Rick, with a business degree, returned to Greensburg to run the family business.
Outgrowing the location on Main Street just off the Courthouse Square, the business moved to its own newly constructed building at 835 N. Lincoln Street in the late ‘80s.
“We missed going down the street to Storie’s for coffee every morning and occasionally for lunch at the Elks club, but we were lucky to have a building that fit our needs, and I can’t tell you how many times this store has been rearranged to accommodate the needs of our customers!” Linville said. “The only thing that has stayed put is the Kitchen and Bath Gallery and the offices on the balcony floor level, but the only way to survive today in business is to change with the times! You have to. It’s how you survive. but I still really miss those noisy old hardwood floors!”
Rick said running the business has been interesting, and noted many of their clients are from families that have been generational customers.
“Those older folks tell me they still remember us closing on Wednesday afternoons to buy stuff for the store, and we didn’t have the competition then. Hardware stores sold hardware, and we didn’t have the big stores that sell everything,” he added.
Rick recounted spending almost three hours in the K-Mart store in Shelbyville right after it opened.
“I looked at everything they had – appliances, Pfaltzgraff – and I said, ‘We gotta get out of this stuff,’” he explained. “We just couldn’t compete with them, and that was a lot of our business.”
When asked what he’ll do the final day the store is open, what his last words as he stands looking out the front door will be, Rick said, “Well, I’ll cross my arms and I’ll probably have tears in my eyes. I won’t be able to talk. I’ll just ... . I’m a people person, and I’ll miss the people most of all.”