NUTS AND BOLTS: I moved into my husband's condo in Logan Circle in 2000. Immediately, we had a million home projects we wanted to do -- but we never got around to them because the hardware store was so far away. Even changing light bulbs was a hassle if we had to find an unusual size. At the time, I was working in the tech industry, and my company was going out of business. So one day, I came home from work and told my husband I was opening a local hardware store. He asked if I was on drugs. I'd never been particularly handy. But nine months later, we opened [at 1416 P St. NW, 202-265-8900]. Every neighborhood deserves its own places to shop.

GO, GIRLS: I hire lots of women, and people tell me that's made a difference -- it's less intimidating for female customers. Women wield a lot of spending power and decision-making influence, so it also makes sense from a business perspective. On a personal level, I think it's fun to psych women up to tackle projects. One of my part-timers is a social worker, and before she came to work here, she didn't know the first thing about hardware. Now she's become an expert at refinishing furniture. We're all learning as we go.

DO-IT-HERSELF: People come in and ask if they can pay us to fix their lamps. I say, "No, but I'll show you how to do it yourself." Rewiring is actually easy. So is repairing a toilet. You can unclog it, change the flapper, change the innards, all without calling a plumber. Some projects require a professional -- like fixing structural problems or doing major electrical work -- but, for example, I installed a fountain in our backyard. That's something everyone can do.

QUICK FIXES: Painting is the easiest way to make an impact quickly. There are lots of terrific products now, like color for appliances. You don't need to replace your stove when you can just paint it. And tile paint is perfect if you're not ready to rip everything out (which can be expensive) or if you want to try a new color, like lime green. A girlfriend of mine just bought a fixer-upper in Petworth, and she came to me for advice. She was going to spend $7,000 on new cabinets. I told her she could refinish and repaint the old ones for $150. That's the best: when you convince someone to do something themselves, and then they come back in and tell you how great it turned out.

As told to Emily Heil

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Hardware wiz Gina Schaefer, right, talks home improvement with a customer.