Tucked inside a beautiful, vine-covered entrance along Cullman’s busy Fourth Street is one of the growing city’s most distinctive retailers. Werner’s Trading Co., a second-generation family owned store, is in its sixth decade of business.
Rob Werner’s father, Robert, opened the business in 1952 as an army surplus store, which over the years evolved into a hardware store, then an industrial supply store. These days, you can find just about anything inside the shop – from men’s and women’s apparel, to recreational supplies, grills, bicycles, canoes, specialty beer and wine and even bee-keeping supplies.
“Our product diversity is our calling card,” said Rob, the current owner/operator. “We’re blessed to have shoppers from all over the United States because of our unique store. Families consider it a gathering place. They come into town and meet here.”
Rob learned the basics of the retail business and customer service as a child, helping his father deliver goods back when the business was still a surplus store. “We had a route that we carried and sold goods all over the county. We did that until the mass merchants started moving into town. We have continued to change through the years,” he added.
While the product selection has changed quite a bit in the last 63 years, the Werner’s Trading Co. commitment to the community has never wavered. Rob, who’s owned the business for 44 of those 63 years, says, “We come here every day to work very hard for our community.” Along with his work inside the store, once a week, Rob mentors inside the Cullman City Schools. He also serves on various boards of directors within the community, including the United Way. You’d be hard pressed to find a local project or charitable cause in the community that Werner’s Trading Co. hasn’t supported in the past.
Werner’s is also a long-time member of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, and Rob has been active in the city’s industrial development efforts. He’s worked alongside city and other business leaders in building and recruiting new industries to the city, even some companies that now compete for the same customers who shop at Werner’s.
“It all helps move the community forward,” Werner said. “We are a stronger city when we all work together.” Werner and his wife, Mary Ellen, are inside the store every day, as is another familiar face – their 12-year-old dog, Mazzie. The 60-pound Labradoodle greets customers and is often found alongside the registers.
“She’s part of the business,” said Rob. “It’s a family atmosphere. We’ve had employees who’ve been with us for a long time, and customers who’ve shopped with us for several generations. We knew them as children, and now they bring their own children shopping in the store. We have been blessed.”
Werner’s Trading Co. at 1115 4th St. SW in Cullman is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
Story and photos by Melissa Johnson Warnke
Editor’s Note: The Werners’ beloved dog Mazzie passed away since this story was written. We send our condolences to Mazzie’s family and the Werner’s Trading Co. customers whose lives she touched with her gentle and welcoming presence.