But I Don’t Need 5 lbs. of Nails!

One of the things I don’t like about today’s world is the loss of the “old fashion” hardware store. The place in every town where one could go and buy a heavy brown paper bag containing the five or six sixteen-penny nails they needed and not the five pounds that come in a big box at the big box store.

Louis H. Ashling, founder of long-time Greenfield business, Ashling's Hardware.

In my home town, Greenfield, Ohio, we once had two fully stocked hardware stores and two fully stocked lumber yards who also carried a good selection of nuts, bolts, nails, and fence staples. Today we still have a hardware store but too much of what they sell comes in pre-packaged blister packs and you can’t buy just one cup hook, you have to buy three, or whatever’s hermetically sealed in a plastic bubble that often requires a sharp pocket knife and a couple of Band-Aids to open.

Ashling’s Hardware was my store of choice, mainly because the owner was the grandfather of two of my best friends and Mr. Ashling sold sporting goods and would let us kids buy stuff on credit. We could buy a new ball glove and pay $25 cents a week until the debt was settled. I learned about credit and paying on time from Mr. Ashling but nothing about interest on a loan, he didn’t charge us any.

Ashling’s was in business for many decades with Mr. Ashling having taken over the business his father, Louis Ashling, had began back in the 1800s. It was housed in a two-story brick building from the late 19th century and was stuffed with stuff. They sold all kinds of tools, luggage, some glassware, lantern wicks, pocket knives, Samsonite luggage, saddles and tack equipment, sporting goods, bicycles, little red wagons, lawn mowers, stove pipes, black iron pipe and much, much, more.

You could walk in and tell Ray Ashling you needed a framostat for an Obeldorfer and he would disappear into the storeroom out back or the storeroom on the second floor, leaving the store unattended, and in a few minutes he’d return with framostat in hand. Dangling from it would be a little white string tag with the price and the stock number so he’d know what to reorder.

The benefits of Ashling’s Hardware were many, you knew who you were dealing with, there were no parking problems, If you lived within a few blocks you’d just walk to the store, you could buy a pound of bolts or just one bold. You didn’t have to wait on yourself, Mr. Ashling and his long-time employee, Jim Fagan, knew everything about everything they sold, and just as important, where it was located in the deep, dark, bowels of the store.

Of course there were downsides. Ashling’s, and other small town stores, had a more captive market and could charge higher prices and they simply couldn’t stock the vast variety found today in a Lowe’s or Home Depot. But, what Ashling’s didn’t sell, somebody else in town probably did. For example, if you couldn’t buy one of those newfangled TV things at Ashling’s or Jones’ Hardware you could at either Hamilton’s Electric or the Grain and Hay Store.

Mr. Ashling was a short, stocky, man with receding hairline and slightly bent over at the shoulders. He wore bifocals that typically sat on the front of his nose and when he looked at you there was a kind of twinkle or smile in his eyes. I don’t every remember him being unpleasant and always asked how I was and how my mom and dad were doing. I’ve yet to meet that person in the hardware department at Wal-Mart.

What prompted this article was an item in a Columbus area community newspaper about Chuck and Kathy (Lucas) Nutter. The Nutters, wanting to escape the corporate world, decided to open a full-service traditional hardware store in the Upper Arlington section of Columbus. What really caught my eye was a reference to Nutter Hardware’s inclusion of a genuine pot belly stove surrounded by old stools for patrons to gather around in the winter months and a 1948 Ford pickup truck to ogle at and prompt reminisces of the good ole’ days. Kathy tells me they’ll also be offering free hot popcorn to munch while kicking tires, swapping lies, or actually buying something for a fix-it project back home.

The other thing that got me thinking is how what the Nutters are doing resembles my statement of purpose for this site and my choice of names. My desire is to see this site become a place where people can gather around a virtual pot belly rather than the real deal that I hope will glow as the heart of Nutter’s business for years to come.

Nutter’s Hardware is located at 3078 Kingsdale Center, is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The business can be contacted at 614-824-1680, or on their website.

11 thoughts on “But I Don’t Need 5 lbs. of Nails!”

  1. i remember all of these stores also. ashlings ss bootery farmers wholesale grain and hay. back in the day it was good to shop i n town wish i could say the same now. even now i would shop in greenfield and pay a little more if it was worth it.
    my grandpa worked at the grain and hay so did dad and as a child i remember mom taking grandpa ti uhls to buy groceries every thursday i hated to go because there wasnt anyone he didnt know and it took 3 hrs for him just to get a few items

  2. Larry, Thank you for writing this story. It brings back so many cherished memories for me. My Dad “Bill Kerr” use to take my sister and I to work with him at my Grandpa’s hardware store all the time . I loved going there, because it was always an adventure. The store had so many corners full of neat things for a kid to get into. My sister and I definatly got into all of it. Speaking of the nails, I was sent to count the nails for inventory alot. I spent hours counting nails,only to find out later in life they only needed to be weighed. I see how that works now! Grandpa Ashling was such a kind gentle man that always greeted us with a smile and the occasional quarter. He would let us wonder the store and explore to our hearts content. My sister and I would go back to the office and sit at the big desk and pretend we owned the place. That was untill they caught us listening to people talk on the phone ( Party lines were pretty interesting). I remember one time they had some Mcclain Tigers sweatshirts on sale and I wanted one really bad. Grandpa told me I had to earn it and gave me little chores to do like dusting the unbreakables and cleaning the glass on the showcases. I learned to count back change ( the old fashion way). They had a big old fashion cash register and occasionally I was allowed to push the buttons( under supervision of course). Dad would take us upstairs to ride the bikes and explore the other rooms looking for lost treasures. The best time at the Hardware store was at Christmas when we would help decorate the store and just be a part of the downtown pride and spirit. The whole town was like a picture out of a story book. Greenfield was a beautiful wonderland back then. I was so blessed to have been born back in the day and into a wonderful family.

  3. I must say Larry, that this site is opening up the memory bank of a young child who once lived, breathed and walked the furtile fields and friendly street of a wonderland called “Greenfield”. My memories flow back to the time when I was taken to Dr. Felson, I lived at 111 North street and ran all over the areas around town with my Uncle Lewis as we hunted and explored the Paint and rattlesnake Creeks for that “Perfect” fishing spot.
    Thank you for this site and all of those who want to keep it pure, memorable and romantic!

  4. Oh yes! I do so remember being in the Asling Hardware store with my Father or Grandfather and remember how I was allowed to wander around and never once being told not to touch something. I seem to remember, hope it was this store, receiving a tid-bit of candy or some other sweet gift every now and then as well. Always with a soft face and gentle smile!

  5. Great artical..You forgot to mention Russ Kerr. Rays son in law………He worked there many years also……..Would like to see more old time Greenfield stories……….Maybe David Miley would have a few more to tell….

    1. I also failed to mention Ray’s grandson and son of Russell, Bill Kerr. Bill worked in his grandfather’s store for most of the years following his graduation from high school until the store finally closed. He then took his knowledge of hardware to Charlie Beechler’s small hardware store.

    1. No, Ashling’s in a part of the building that most lately was the Hallmark store next to the city building. At one time, circa 1950s, there was a general goods store across from where McDonald’s today is. It was called Cussin and Fern and was part of an early chain of such stores.

  6. Nice read….. I remember Ashling’s, Hamilton Electric, etc. and I’ve visited Nutter’s Hardware. The ’48 Ford is indeed inside the store and the pot belly stove is in the rear adjacent to the service desk. They don’t have a fire in it yet but I’m sure when the weather is cooler that will happen.
    Chuck is all about service…… his handyman service is top notch and we’ve had many discussions about different types of hardware stores. Another brother-in-law, Ted Hanlon, owns a hardware store in Barnesville, Ohio and it has an “old-timey” feel to it, is well stocked, and has great customer service.
    I also frequent Central Center Hardware in Chillicothe. I realize I’ll pay more but I can usually find what I need and they fix everything from a screen door to a bicycle. Oh!, and you can still buy just one bolt!

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