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.
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.