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.

Anything You Need and Some that You Don't--photo from oldhardwarestore.com

Anything You Need and Some that You Don't--photo from oldhardwarestore.com

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

Open Since 1914--photo from nicholshardware.com

Open Since 1914--photo from nicholshardware.com

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.

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  1. 4 Responses  to “In search of an old hardware store”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    Habitat for Humanity Resale stores are a great resource for building materials Cari. Not only are you recycling materials, but you are helping a good cause. I know a number of large home builders donate their excess materials to the organization or at least they did when times were good in the home building industry. We used to have a Habitat for Humanity come out to our site every couple of months and we would load them up with cabinets, windows, and framing materials. There was nothing wrong with any of it--we were just cleaning up the site of materials we didn't need any longer and couldn't return.
  3. frank
    Aug 29, 2011
    Sliter's Hardware Store in Somer's Montana has been around about 100 years, and the original location is in a classic old building. Although Home Depot is just up the road, this place continues to survive!
  4. Aug 29, 2011
    We have found a great resource for older style hardware here in Tulsa. It's the Habitat for Humanity Resale store. I doubt it's unique to this area, so I'll bet you can find a resale store like it near you. Sometimes the assistants are very helpful and informative, so it's not quite the local store owner atmosphere, but you can find things that you never knew could still be found! I don't know exactly how they come to acquire their stock but I heard it is their way of recycling items from demolition to make way for the new! You'll have to be patient and determined. You may have to make many visits, they seem to rotate in new items daily. But the material is usually very economical! I have found the old glass door knobs, pocket doors, skeleton keys, antique porcelain drawer knobs, vintage brass lights and much more!
  5. Aug 29, 2011
    We just went to a great hardware store today to pick up some power sanders. If you are ever in the area of Bellingham Washington you should check out Hardware Sales. Its just like what you described above, but its so massive I'm still not sure I have been to all the areas in it.