Progress brings many beneficial changes, but unfortunately there are also some casualties along the way. All of us involved in preservation efforts are well aware of that. Spring is right around the corner and I’m beginning to gear up for my projects put on hold when cold weather hit. Fortunately, we’ve had a milder winter than normal and my old house fared much better than last year. I don’t have any new projects–all I need to do is complete my long list pending from the past ten years.
Making lists of items I need to get started always gets me thinking about old hardware stores. I have a pretty good establishment near my old house, but it’s just not the same as the old stores I recall. Hardware stores are near and dear to my heart as my grandfather operated a hardware business on the main street of a little town north of Pittsburgh for about 30 years. It was down the street from a small JCPenney department store and across from an ice cream parlor and candy shop.
I don’t remember much from when my grandfather owned the store, but I have vivid memories of when my father took over. Unfortunately, he only had it for a few years before an unknown store named K Mart showed up on the edge of town located in something new called a shopping center. My father was one of the first business owners on Main Street to realize what all those changes meant, and my family was soon out of the hardware business.
Patronize an old hardware store
That was in 1963, and many small owner-operated hardware stores have fallen by the wayside since those days. I miss those old stores with their wooden floors and shelves stacked with just about anything you could ever need for your old house. I remember all the little bins filled with different-sized screws, bolts, and washers and the wooden kegs full of nails.
I also miss walking into a hardware store and being able to talk to a salesperson who knows more about what I’m looking for than I do. You can still find a few of those old hardware stores around if you look hard enough. I’ve been in Nichols Hardware in Purcellville, Va., and it definitely qualifies. The store has been in business since 1914. The Old Hardware Store in Halstead, Kan. began helping customers in 1885 and is still going strong. Old Forge Hardware in Old Forge, N.Y. opened its doors in 1900 and even though a fire destroyed most of it in 1922–the building was rebuilt and has been open ever since.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit an old hardware store, you’ll find it’s like taking a stroll through history and there’s a good chance you’ll find just what you need for your old house.