By John Wilburn
One of my favorite things about living in the New River Valley is our diverse business community and the people who make it work. For folks like me who enjoy building projects, there are locally-owned vendors for most any of our needs. Recently, I needed some argon gas for my welder and stopped by HMI Welding Supply in Christiansburg. Located near the busy intersection of Cambria and North Franklin Streets, it is surprisingly easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there, but is a bustling business that has relied on word of mouth to build a loyal following since its opening in 1994.
Founded by Art Hamrick and his father, HMI is not only a welding supply store, but a full service propane supplier also. During my visit, I saw the same care and customer service for those needing a large commercial or residential propane tank delivered as the customer who stops by to have the tank refilled for her gas grill.
The owner, Art, prides himself on this and said “(We) treat people fair with a fair price and word gets around and business grows.” He went on to explain how unlike some large franchise suppliers, HMI doesn’t have various added fees with their services, making their prices more competitive. I can vouch for that on my purchase as the bottle of gas I bought was the same price as a big chain, but with better service and advice.
Up to four seasonal employees stay busy, especially in the fall months keeping the local community stocked up on propane. Where welding supplies used to be the bigger focus of the business, propane demand has now surpassed it. Art is very familiar with both, though, having worked for other gas companies ever since high school, before starting his own, and with his father’s neighboring metal fabrication business. When not at the shop, he is enjoying his vintage cars and recently acquired a rare, 1-of-58, Hemi, 1970 Plymouth Superbird, which he shows when weather permits.
I’m glad HMI Welding is part of our community and this happy customer encourages you to shop there too.