One might think there is nothing more pedestrian than a column about a hardware store. Not so fast. The humble hardware store might be taken for granted until there isn’t one. Such happened to my childhood friend in the itty-bitty eastern Montana town of Terry (where everyone knows your name!).
Laris and I grew up across the street from each other. We played horses and dinosaurs and Barbie dolls. Laris went off to University of Montana in Missoula, took a job as a high school English teacher in the far-flung prairie town of Terry, and eventually married the local plumbing and heating professional. Together they made their home in Terry and, in addition to the service business, ran the local hardware store.
Years went by teaching, plumbing, running the hardware store and raising two daughters. When the time came to retire and sell the store, an eager buyer hailing far from Montana called the small town store his dream It didn’t take long for the dream to turn into a nightmare and the once-thriving hardware store closed its doors, leaving the townspeople with a 40-mile drive in either direction to Glendive or Miles City to buy their nuts and bolts.
With the defunct store back in their laps, my friend and her husband struggled with their options, until recently. The local sheriff and his wife purchased the store, are currently remodeling it, and will reopen as Hardware Hank’s. A collective sigh of relief.
Here in the valley, when is there not a repair job or a project calling for some item of hardware that you can’t find in the tool shed? Just this week, I headed to town with a bolt in hand and instructions to get four of the same and four nuts to match. When I stand in front of all those bins of screws, nails, bolts, washers, et al, my eyeballs go in circles. Same thing happens in front of the light bulbs.
Fortunately, Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man – or woman, I might add. (I’m sure the Do It Center in Twisp has them, too.) Mason graciously took my bolt in hand and within a minute had the correct replacements – 23 cents for each bolt, 12 cents for each nut. Never take a hardware store for granted.
While stretching for column fodder this week, I threw a question out to a local Mazaman who is also a tool fiend. What’s your most memorable experience at the hardware store? He thought for a minute of my strange question and then relayed his favorite memory.
While on a routine trip to the hardware store for some supplies, his accompanying brother surprised him with the announcement that they were there to buy him a gift: a new chainsaw. He relayed, “A mundane trip to the hardware store became something special.” Walking out with a chainsaw in hand was far more exciting than a bag of nails.
The big-box home improvement stores have swallowed up many of the neighborhood hardware stores. However, if you have an occasion to be in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle, stop in at Tweedy and Popp, the city’s oldest hardware store. Opened in 1920 by P.W. Tweedy and Lou Popp, it still maintains the flavor of its origin.