Wendel Home Center still providing quality service after 70 years

Wendel Home Center still providing quality service after 70 years
Bill Ritter standing in the showroom of Wendel Home Center. (Photo courtesy of Wendel Home Center)

“People said Home Depot was going to put us out of business, but we’re still here,” Bill Ritter, the former owner of Wendel Home Center, laughed.

The home improvement store on 49 East Jericho Turnpike in Mineola is currently operating in its 70th year of business.

Ritter, who bought the business with high school friend Salvatore Norrito in 1960 before turning it over to his sons Bill and Bob in 1997, worked at the original Wendel Aluminum Awning Co. after serving in the Korean War in 1953. Prior to Wendel, he worked at Kool Vent Awnings in 1949, which was also located on East Jericho Turnpike. 

“The awnings were seasonal and we weren’t busy in the winter months,” Ritter said of his decision to expand while going through decades of different newspaper clippings and pictures from the storefront. “It was then we decided to expand into storm doors, storm windows and also siding.”

Ritter said he installed the original awnings at both the Mineola Diner and Mineola Memorial Library and that the business primarily was carried through the local community’s word of mouth. 

He expanded through the years, taking over the three surrounding storefronts, moving the shop at the back of the store where the awnings would be made to a new warehouse and eventually remodeling to a full showroom in the 2000s, which now shows Wendel’s home improvement options. 

Wendel now uses a warehouse in Deer Park for both storage and a factory where the awnings are still made.

Many customers who come in are not only repeating ones but second-generation clients, said Diane Mirman, Ritter’s daughter.

“If my father sold someone an awning 30 years ago, we often see them or even their grandchildren come back for something else,” Mirman said. “People look for personalized service when they come here, and we are happy to give them that. It’s nice to know you can go into a business that’s been around a long time.”

Now retired, the 92-year-old Ritter said his sons, who have worked on and off in the store since they were teenagers, are dealing with both more competition and product than he could have imagined when he was younger.  But he believes good service beats all.

It’s been a similar mindset for him and his family since 1960.

“You need to build up and maintain a reputation,” Ritter said. “People feel they can trust us.”

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