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Our History

  • 1896—The Wisconsin Retail Hardware Association is organized in Berlin, Wisconsin, by 35 hardware dealers wishing to promote the interest of, and secure the friendly cooperation among, independent retail hardware dealers. The Association’s first Annual Convention is held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    "Receipt #1" for membership in the Minnesota Retail Hardware Association.
    Louis Gewalt—The first man to join the Minnesota Retail Hardware Association in 1897.
  • 1897—On April 29, the Minnesota Retail Hardware Association is organized at a meeting held in the Old Capitol Building in St. Paul, Minnesota. Later that same year, hardware dealers in Illinois vote to establish the Illinois Retail Hardware Association. On September 29, the North Dakota Retail Hardware Association is founded at a meeting in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

  • 1899—Members of the Minnesota Retail Hardware Association vote to form the Retail Hardware Dealers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Minnesota, a forerunner to the present day American Hardware Mutual Insurance Company.

  • 1902—Boasting a full-time staff of one person, the Wisconsin Retail Hardware Association joins the National Retail Hardware Association, which would later become the present day North American Retail Hardware Association.

    1904-1910 Hardware Dealers Mutual Fire Insurance Company office on the second floor of this building in Berlin, WI.
  • 1904—Wisconsin hardware dealers meet and agree to form the Hardware Dealers Mutual Fire Insurance Company, a forerunner to the current Sentry Insurance Company.

  • 1905—The South Dakota Retail Hardware Association is formed.

  • 1912—The Wisconsin Retail Hardware Association moves its offices to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, under the direction of Peter (P.J.) Jacobs, a Stevens Point hardware store owner who now directs both the hardware association and the insurance company.

  • 1914—The Wisconsin Retail Hardware Association starts the Wisconsin Hardware Dealers Limited Mutual Liability Insurance Company. P.J. Jacobs’ son, Carl N. Jacobs, becomes its first employee.

Formal Opening of New Building Takes Place August 2, 1922 in Stevens Point, WI. This historic building still stands in downtown Stevens Point, WI.
  • 1922—The Fire and Casualty Company, along with the Wisconsin Retail Hardware Association, move to a new three-story home office in downtown Stevens Point.

  • 1929—Hardware Mutual—Sentry Life Insurance was formed.

  • 1962—The Wisconsin Retail Hardware Association’s Annual Convention moves from Milwaukee to Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

  • 1963—The WRHA continues with a full-time staff of eight. The group of insurance companies composed of Hardware Mutual Casualty Co., Hardware Dealers Mutual Fire Insurance Co., and Sentry Life Insurance Co. formally became Sentry Insurance.

  • 1968—A merger of the Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota Retail Hardware Associations takes place, forming the new Minnesota-Dakotas Retail Hardware Association (MDRHA).

  • 1971—The WRHA office moved from Sentry Insurance’s building at 1421 Strongs Avenue to its Building 3 at 2801 Dixon Street.

  • 1977—The WRHA office moved back to the Sentry Insurance building at 1421 Strongs Avenue when Sentry’s new “World Headquarters” facility was completed on North Point Drive.

  • 1991—The WRHA is the largest single-state hardware association in the United States with a staff of 35 offering over 60 services to Wisconsin hardware retailers.

  • 1992—The Wisconsin Retail Hardware Association and the Illinois Retail Hardware Association merge to form the Midwest Hardware Association (MHA). They have a combined membership of nearly 1,000 businesses.

  • 1999—In October, the MHA office moved back to Sentry’s Building 3 on Dixon Street.

  • 2001—The Midwest Hardware Association agrees to take over TruServ (True Value) Corporation’s member accounting service, allowing MHA to provide accounting, payroll and tax preparation services to hardware stores across the United States. The MHA offices are expanded to accommodate increased staff needed to handle the additional work. At nearly 40 employees, MHA is the largest regional Hardware Association in the United States.

  • 2003—The MHA completely redesigned its website preparing to offer up-to-date information to its more than 950 members and clients. The new website features important news and information, posting requirements, a guide to the retention of records, a searchable Association HELPS database, registration for MHA’s upcoming events, information on child labor laws, along with a password protected Members Only section which allows each member/client access to information pertinent to their store.

  • 2004—The Midwest Hardware Association held its First-Ever Product Knowledge Expo in conjunction with its 108th Annual Hardware Dealers Convention. The event was held in Lake Geneva, WI, at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa and featured vendor specials, new product demonstrations, and an auction benefiting Habitat for Humanity. Almost 300 MHA members, vendors, and staff were in attendance for this first time event.

  • 2009—Members of the Midwest Hardware Association and the Minnesota-Dakotas Retail Hardware Association vote their approval on a Plan of Merger between the two organizations. Combined, the new Midwest Hardware Association boasts the largest number of hardware dealers as its members, of any regional association in the country. MHA remains headquartered in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and also establishes a regional office in Hopkins, Minnesota.

  • 2014—In April, MHA's regional office moves from Hopkins, MN to Minnetonka, MN.


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