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Hard­grove started the busi­ness with a cousin and a friend — hence the name “cousins” — af­ter his dis­charge from the Army in the late 1960s. Thanks to plenty of hard work, busi­ness grew un­til, by the ‘90s, Hard­grove was in semi-re­tire­ment and liv­ing in Florida and had a man­ager run­ning the shop.

When the man­ager died un­ex­pect­edly, Hard­grove came back to run the store.

“But he wasn’t 23 any­more, so it was tough,” Richard­son said.

Then a mu­tual friend, Larry Kelly, in­tro­duced Hard­grove to Richard­son, who had been work­ing as a con­sul­tant to var­i­ous small busi­nesses.

“Ge­orge and I hit it off, and within the first three months we had turned around sales by $100,000,” Richard­son said. “So I said it was time for me to move on to the next pro­ject, but in­stead I be­came an eq­uity partner. That was around 2011. We had the best five years of busi­ness ever and were do­ing great.”

In early 2014, Hard­grove’s health be­gan to de­te­ri­o­rate “and he said he was think­ing about re­tir­ing, so I bought him out. He was go­ing to con­tinue to con­sult and he owned the real es­tate, and in the mid­dle of the trans­ac­tion he died (at the age of 69). I was locked out for two years.” Cousins will still sell mil­i­tary sur­plus cloth­ing and gear, but is also branch­ing out into col­lectibles and will hold clin­ics on self­de­fense and sur­vival skills.

Richard­son ul­ti­mately set­tled out of court with Hard­grove’s heirs, all the while know­ing that Cousins Army- Navy was still a Columbus icon.

“We got 30 to 50 calls a day dur­ing the close,” he said. “So we took a lease on this store and bought out a sur­plus store in Ken­tucky that was go­ing out of busi­ness. While we were get­ting the store ready, there were so many peo­ple com­ing by ask­ing when we would open. When we fi­nally did, traf­fic was like we never left. It was great.”

The new store is “about the same size, maybe a lit­tle big­ger than the old store,” he said, and not only sells mil­i­tary sur­plus cloth­ing and gear but also “a lot of new stuff. We’re also start­ing to branch out into vin­tage and col­lectibles, and mov­ing into sur­vival sup­plies — we’re get­ting MREs in a

week or two — and I’ve got a con­tact who can build a bunker in your garage. The other thing we’re go­ing to do is hold lit­tle mini-clin­ics on self-de­fense and sur­vival skills.”

While the store has moved, it was im­por­tant to stay on High Street to honor Hard­grove’s mem­ory, Richard­son said.

“I called Ge­orge ‘the mayor of High Street’ be­cause he was born at 1st and High and never left,” he said. “Ge­orge and I were best of friends. He still speaks to me. I had an or­der of dog tags from a Boy Scout troop, and I didn’t know it. One night I was lock­ing up and the alarm goes off. It never goes off, but it did that night — and I saw the or­der. I wound up stay­ing un­til mid­night get­ting the or­der done. It’s lit­tle things like that.”

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