It’s a Hardware Life
Started by 16-year veteran policeman Mike LaFleur, Mike’s Hardware & Supply has faithfully served the Gentilly neighborhood and the many tradesmen, property managers and DIY’ers around the city and surrounding area since 1981.
“My father enjoyed piddling around properties and fixing things,” says son Lee LaFleur, who, along with his younger brother Rob, now runs the family business. “So the store just made sense.”
For eight years the family lived in a small apartment above the 5,500-square-foot store. At a young age, the boys started working their holidays and days off at the shop.
“In the freeze of 1982 we all pitched in,” says Rob. “At eight I cut my teeth on plumbing. I was old enough to move a few boxes and could take directions. It was all hands on deck then.”
The brothers both now have business degrees from the University of New Orleans and Lee participated in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program.
“It’s what we know how to do,” he says.
“We’re millionaires,” jokes Rob.
“It’s not overly lucrative but it’s a good life,” adds Lee. “And it’s good dealing with people from all walks of life helping them fill a need.”
Rob likes the fact that each day at Mike’s is a new adventure.
“One day I’ll be cutting 84 pieces of glass and the next I’ll be cutting pipe or fixing a busted doorknob.”
Because New Orleans is an older city with old drainage pipes, plumbing is one of the biggest parts of their business.
“I send everyone I know to Mike’s,” says Bob the Plumber, who won’t share his last name but is eager to share a bit of praise. “I’ve been coming here for 12 years and they have the best plumbing selection in town. “
Property maintenance is, however, the store’s bread and butter. They average around 200 transactions a day.
The brothers know that small retail is declining, but instead of griping they try and focus on the things where they can be strong and competitive.
“We learned to acclimate and survive,” says Lee.
Mike’s specializes in such things as window screens, rekeying locks and repairing gas heaters.
“We are service oriented,” says Rob. “You can call us and place an order and that’s sometimes faster so it saves people time and to them time is money.”
The brothers are also very community minded. They frequently participate in charity cooking events and competitions. In addition to being the two-time champion of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater New Orleans Buddy Walk Jambalaya Cook Off, they also donate to Hogs For The Cause, Each One Save One, Brother Martin High School, Hynes Charter School, Riverdale High School, and many more.
They also had a chance at fame and fortune. In 2012, Mike’s Hardware & Supply was selected to film a pilot episode for a reality TV show based out of a hardware store.
“The network didn’t pick up the show,” says Lee. “But they left us with a pretty neat video, Big Easy Hardware.
4233 Elysian Fields