See what Lowe’s looked like when the home-improvement giant first opened

The predecessor to Lowe's was a small store called North Wilkesboro Hardware.

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The predecessor to Lowe’s was a small store called North Wilkesboro Hardware.
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Courtesy of Lowe’s
  • Lowe’s can trace its roots back to 1921.
  • That’s when a businessman named Lucian Lowe founded North Wilkesboro Hardware in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
  • Lowe’s son, Jim, and son-in-law, Carl Buchan, would later run the business together.
  • Buchan would eventually spin off the company’s hardware business in order to kick off the modern-day Lowe’s.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Lowe’s is a mainstay for customers tackling home-improvement projects.

The North Carolina-based chain may be one of the largest home-improvement retailers in the world. But the business actually got its start as a single general store.

That small-town model eventually gave way to a larger regional chain of hardware stores, and as the company grew it began to take on more of the look of the modern-day Lowe’s.

Here’s a peek at what Lowe’s stores looked like back in the day:


Lucius Lowe founded North Wilkesboro Hardware — a general merchandise store — in Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 1921.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


That business was a precursor to the modern-day home-improvement chain.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


After the founder’s death in 1940, the store went to his daughter Ruth. She sold the business to her brother Jim, and kept the store running while he and her husband Carl Buchan served in World War II.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


In 1943, Jim Lowe took on Buchan as a partner. Lowe’s officially became a general merchandise chain in 1949 and boasted 15 stores in total by 1960.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


But Lowe and Buchan differed on the direction the chain should go in.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


The pair split up in 1952, with Lowe taking on the grocery side of the business and Buchan sticking with hardware.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


Buchan’s vision helped the company capitalize on the post-war building boom, and would pave the way for the modern-day Lowe’s.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


However, the business’s future became unclear once more when he died in 1961 at the age of 44.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


The company’s executive team — Leonard Herring, Pete Kulynych, Joe Reinhardt, John Walker, and Bob Strickland — enacted a profit-sharing plan to allow the employees to own the company.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


Lowe’s went public in 1961 and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1979.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


Lowe’s said that 1984 marked the first year it raked in $1 billion in sales. That year saw the company net $25 million in profits.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


In a statement on its history, Lowe’s said that the “modern” iteration of its company began in 1994.

source
Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase


That being said, Lowe’s’ early rise from a small-town general store to a forward-looking hardware chain represents the momentum that the company would use to grow into the one of largest home-improvement retailers in the country.

source
Mohammad Khursheed/Reuters

Source: Business Insider, “Make It New: Essays in the History of American Business,” “Principles of Supply Chain Management,” Business North Carolina, Wilkes Journal Patriot, Lowe’s, The New York Times, Crunchbase

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