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Dad exits to political arena; kids mind the store

Nick and Katie Murdock are the new managers at Perham's Ace Hardware store on Main Street. The couple moved to the area in October to manage the business after Nick's dad, Rep. Mark Murdock, was elected to the State House of Representatives.

An election victory for a local businessman has translated into a business opportunity for his son.

After being elected to the State House of Representatives, a position requiring that much of his time be spent in St. Paul, Mark Murdock knew he needed to find a replacement to manage his Main Street hardware business in Perham.

Stepping into that role is Murdock's son Nick, along with his wife Katie. It's a transition that had been considered for years, but was moved forward by Murdock's election to the House.

"Three years ago, we first started talking about the possibility of taking the business over," says Katie.

Prior to her and Nick's decision to move to Perham, Katie was working at a financial firm in St. Cloud. She says the idea of owning their own business, and the benefits of small town life, motivated them to make the move and take over the family business.

For now, Nick and Katie are managing the Ace Hardware store, which is still owned by Mark Murdock and his wife Pat. "Our plan is to purchase the business in 2010," says Katie.

In the meantime, Rep. Murdock is still involved in some of the store's operations. Every other Saturday he spends the day working at the Perham shop.

Mark Murdock tells how he gave his son a list of when his meetings are so that he knows when he can call him in St. Paul if questions arise about the business. So far, Murdock noted with a pleased air of satisfaction, his son hasn't had to pick up the phone once.

"I'm very proud of them," Murdock said of Nick and Katie.

Although the transition to the hardware business is a new venture for Katie, it's old business for Nick, who spent many of his growing years in hardware stores owned by his parents.

"They bought their first hardware store when I was three-months-old," Nick says of his parents. "So, I've pretty much been raised in it."

In 1997, the Murdock family purchased the 'Coast to Coast' in the current Photo Magic location on Main Street. Prior to that, they owned another hardware store in Dodge Center, Minnesota.

Nine years ago, they moved their then 'Ace Hardware' store down two buildings to its current location. Nick worked in his parents' hardware store throughout his high school years, and even came back to work in the shop through his first two years in college.

"I like helping people figure out projects," Nick says, now that he's back in the hardware business. Also, he mentions the benefit of being able to talk to all of the locals who frequent the store.

"I like not sitting in a desk all day," he adds.

Katie agrees with her husband, mentioning how it's been a fun adventure getting to learn all of the new components of running a hardware business in a small town.

She continues, "It's exciting to supplement new and fresh ideas." One of their first new enterprises as store managers is developing a more aggressive advertising campaign.

Over the years, the Perham Ace Hardware store has grown to employ eight people. With Nick and Katie manning the shop, there's one more regular, their furry companion Rio. The golden retriever can be seen roaming the isles on cold winter days, a favorite "employee" for many of the hardware store regulars.

Although they are making a few changes, much of the Perham business will be run the same as it has for more than a decade. With a family legacy in the hardware sector, Nick and Katie are eager to take up the trade and bring their creativity and energy to the business.

As for Nick, he says he's thankful for the chance to step into the footsteps his parents have tread in the Perham retail sector, adding, "It's an opportunity that not a lot of people get to take advantage of."