Now in its 50th year, Fastenal is a Fortune 500 company and the largest fastener distributor in North America, supplying nuts, bolts, screws and more to residents of Winona and citizens of Taiwan.
You’re invited to see the old brick store where it all started, which is now a museum filled with stories and artifacts from the earliest days of Fastenal. Fastenal recently fixed up the old building at 69 Lafayette and turned it into a private museum.
You can see a prototype of founder Bob Kierlin’s creative but unsuccessful hardware vending machine, a recreation of a typical Fastenal branch from the early 1980s, and a lineup of some of the strangest fasteners and components the company has ever produced.
Kierlin, who is recognized as the visionary behind Fastenal, originally planned to distribute fasteners through vending machines, not retail stores.
After being rejected by at least 30 potential investors, he convinced four friends — Jack Remick, Van McConnon, Steve Slaggie and Mike Gostomski — to chip in their savings and help fund the venture.
According to Kierlin, at the time of the company’s founding, Fastenal was the smallest of roughly 10,000 fastener sellers in the United States.
By the mid-1990s, Fastenal was the largest.
The museum is open to the public for the first time this week — and at no cost. Visitors are welcome from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.