The home improvement giant was once a small family business.

Advertisement

The next time you're walking through the aisles of your local Lowe's, picking up paint rollers, picture hanging kits, and refills for your hot glue gun, be aware that you're walking through history. The home improvement giant started right here in the South over 100 years ago.

The Lowe's story began in North Carolina when Wilkes County farmer L.S. Lowe decided to start his own store, opening Lowe's North Wilkesboro Hardware in 1921. The little shop downtown on C Street sold hardware and building materials alongside sewing notions, dry goods, horse tack, snuff produce and groceries, Our State notes. Lowe was content selling his bric-a-brac to the local community, passing the family business to his daughter, Ruth, and his son, Jim Lowe, in 1940. While Jim Lowe and Ruth's husband Carl Buchan, were off serving in WWII, Ruth and her mother, Floy Elizabeth Lowe, kept the lights on at the store.

Buchan "was given an honorable discharge after suffering a foot injury in 1943," according to Our State. Back at home, he needed a job and Lowe, still in the Army, made him an offer, do an inventory of everything in the store and, if he paid Lowe "the equivalent amount in cash, the two would be 50-50 partners." Per Our State, "the inventory amounted to about $12,500". Buchan bought in to the business and soon things really took off.

According to the Lowe's history on the company's website, Buchan realized that when the war was over, soldiers would be returning home, starting families, and needing houses. Anticipating the impending building boom, Buchan decided that the store should focus solely on home improvement products—anything a person might need to build, repair, or gussy up a house. The idea was a hit and, come 1949, they opened a second Lowe's in Sparta, N.C.

Buchan was a business visionary and soon took over the whole family business. It may have made for some awkward Lowe family suppers, but Buchan kept the store name and set about growing the business. Jim Lowe had his own vision, including starting the Lowes Foods supermarket chain. Soon Lowe's, the home improvement store, had over 300 employees and a bustling trade selling supplies to pros as well as DIYers.

Come October 1961, Lowe's was a publicly-traded company on the brink of serving one million customers a year—a milestone they hit in 1964. Fast forward to 1982 and Lowe's had its first billion-dollar sales year. Lowe's opened its first stores in Canada in December 2007 and started selling building supplies in Mexico in February 2010.

The Lowe's story is truly inspirational for any small-town store owner dreaming of becoming one of the big guys.