Rebuilding America: Our series dives into our community's efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many businesses had to shut their doors earlier in the COVID-19 crisis, hardware stores, lumber yards and garden centers have seen an increase in sales as a result of people having extra time to tackle do-it-yourself projects.

Dodge City is a COVID-19 hot spot in Kansas, yet customers keep showing up at these stores for supplies, materials and plants for home projects. And many are new customers.

Sutherlands has seen an increase in sales of paint, lumber, ceramic tile, countertop and cabinet materials. People have purchased lots of tools and lumber, said supervisor Harrison Armendariz.

"New people are coming in daily," Armendariz said. "We have seen a lot of new customers."

Online orders have increased, with people picking up material inside or getting curbside service.

Meade Lumber has also seen in increase in first-time customers. Manager Brad Schaffer said staff have seen a lot of people picking up supplies for remodeling projects, especially lumber and hardware items.

And many are new customers.

"It's hard to keep track (of new customers,)" Schaffer said. "It's been extra busy."

Schaffer said he thinks some of these customers are staying in Dodge City rather than going to Garden City to get their project materials. Customers are aware of COVID-19 and most — about 80%, he said — show up wearing masks. The staff are also wearing masks.

At Ace Hardware, Pride Ag Resources Ace Hardware regional manager Jack Lane said people stuck at home are coming in and getting painting supplies for a room or entire house. The store has sold a lot more garden supplies and seeds.

"More people are planting gardens then ever," Lane said. "We've had more new people than I ever remember seeing before."

Ace Hardware is listed as an essential business, so it has remained open and actually seen an increase in sales, especially for interior projects that require paint. Sheetrock sales have been up too.

"It (coronavirus) has helped (sales). If anything, business has been better," Lane said. "A lot of people are looking for something to do and they haven't had time to do it."

At Waters True Value Hardware, the weekends have been busy. When the Dodge City Walmart store had to shut down for a weekend for building sanitation, True Value hit a sales record with $23,000 for a single day.

"We've seen an increase in customers, mostly on Saturday and Sunday and some nights," said Jeff Wolf, in the True Value rental department.

Plant sales have done well, with a lot more going out the door than usual. Paint sales have also been up, especially on the weekends, Wolf said.

"We've sold quite a bit of paint," Wolf said.

Lumber sales were so good at True Value that the store ran out of some items and has ordered more. Grills, lawnmowers, weed eaters and patio sets were all selling well. Tent rentals have also increased because of businesses that need them for coronavirus screening and testing.

At Nature's Corner, a garden center, so many new customers — many from out of town — have come in for vegetables that they disappeared the way toilet paper disappeared from grocery stores, said owner Ann Torrey.

"People have been snatching up vegetables," Torrey said. "I think there’s a lot of first-time gardeners."

Those new gardeners need to follow local expert advice or they will be disappointed in the fall, Torrey said.

Sales of vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs are all up. Torrey said she heard there has been a 40% increase in sales in garden centers nationwide.

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