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Fletcher Lawn & Garden Hardware has roots in personal service for a half-century


By Pete Zamplas –

Fletcher Lawn & Garden Hardware has provided a half-century of customized service.

For instance, a uniqueness even to this day is enabling a customer to buy however many vegetable seeds he or she wants, rather than a set amount in a package. Squash, cucumber and other seeds are selected from a jar by the customer, weighed for sale, and put into an envelope.

“That’s the old-fashioned way we’ve been doing it for nearly 50 years, since we’ve been in business” in 1964, said store owner and co-founder Samuel Ervin “Sammy” Johnston III. “People like to get the amount they want, and to see fresher seeds.” The store carries various seeds in 55 jars and 18 bins.

Such customized service helps harvest a crop of regular customers. “We appreciate our regulars, and all of the new ones as well,” Johnston said. “I like meeting people every day, and helping them solve their (gardening, etc.) problems.”

Sammy “treats customers with hospitality,” greeting them and recalling their usual needs, said his grandson Kyle Gilliam, 17. The rising West Henderson High School senior, who eyes a law enforcement career, works in the store. His father Keith Gilliam has worked there most of the time since he was 14. Keith, 43, has an accounting degree. The most veteran worker on the staff is Donny Reid, who started in 1977.

The store carries hardware tools, materials and other items. There are products for gardening, farming, construction; and for landscaping such as to limit soil erosion. Farm animal and pet supplies are also featured. Home repair products include electrical and painting and other handyman tasks.

Now that weather has warmed, armies of ants are invading homes. The store has ant traps for inside, and poisons you “can sprinkle outside, around your house” to get them before they enter, Keith Gilliam said.

The store is at 38 Johnston St., off U.S. 25 near Howard Gap Road in downtown Fletcher.

In 1964, Fletcher Hardware was begun by Sammy’s father Samuel Ervin “S.E.” Johnston Jr. and his brother-in-law Joe Lee Heffner, Sammy’s maternal uncle. They were co-owners, and hired Norman Barnett as its manager. “They were dairy farmers, and they started the store to supply themselves” a couple of years after the Farmers Federation closed and starting out of S.E.’s house, Sammy noted. They soon opened the store, which is still in the federation building built in 1921.

S.E. Jr. “strived to do the best he could, to serve the people,” Sammy said of his father. “He was involved in many community affairs and organizations. He helped bring agricultural development to western North Carolina.”

The Johnstons have been dairy farmers, starting at least with Sammy’s grandfather S.E. Johnston Sr. in Avery’s Creek in Buncombe County and continuing with S.E. Jr.’s family. Tap Root Dairy in Fletcher is owned by Sammy’s siblings — school board member and retired West Henderson High School principal Mary Louise Corn; and their younger brothers Billy, Timmy and Bradley.

Working on a dairy farm amongst five children fostered team work, dedication and a strong work ethic, Sammy said. He started working at the store in 1967, while at T.C. Roberson. He graduated from TCR in 1969, a year after UNC head basketball coach Roy Williams did. Sammy earned a business management degree, from Western Carolina University.

Sammy and Kathy Johnston have three children and five grandchildren, and all live in Fletcher. Keith is the eldest child. Next is Kelly (Gilliam) Laughter. She and her husband Shane Laughter run a grading business. The youngest, Sam (S.E. IV) Johnston, is a beer and wine distributor.

The store is at times a social center, and exchange on gardening updates. “We’ll talk about how our gardens are doing,” Keith Gilliam said. “One guy says, ‘my rain gauge said three inches.’ Another guy says, ‘I got 4.2 inches last night.’ And some of us did, one night” two weeks ago.

“It’s sure been wet,” Gilliam noted. “We’re selling fewer garden hoses, so far, and more snail bait. We’re reselling certain seeds, because it’s been too wet for them to come up.” Seed potatoes and okra are among those needing rather dry weather to germinate.

Further, he said, “April was wet, damp and cool. That slowed us down some,” along with farmers and gardeners. “Everything was behind, this year. But it did warm up. We’ve had a busier May.”

The website has many tips for gardening and home care. Store hours are 8-5:30 weekdays, and 8-4 on Saturdays. For more information, call 684-0561 or check

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