Author: Alvira, Marco

They Took My Hardware Store and I'm Mad as Heck

Dear Abby,

Most likely, anyone attaining the age of fifty or older knows what a hardware store should smell like. Iíll be 55 in a short few weeks and feel fortunate to be old enough to remember a world before hardware stores grew to be the size of of Rhode Island. My first vivid memory of a mom-and-pop hardware goes back to 1963 when my family first moved to Hayward. My dad took me along to the old store on B St. and Watkins. The wood floor, worn smooth from dozens of years of wear, creaked as we walked in the door, thus drawing the clerks attention. As my eyes soaked in kegs of nails, stands of garden tools leaning against each other like CIvil War rifles, my mind and lungs were filled with pungent scent of dust, machine oil, lawn supplements and iron...that peculiar amalgam that comprises the fragrance of the traditional hardware store. Next to the counter was a huge barrel of dog biscuits. To my five year old mind, they smelled mighty much that I had to sneak one and take a bite. That lone sample was enough to squelch my yearning for dog biscuits for the next fifty years. But itís a funny thing: every time I smell dog biscuits, I think of that barrel full of its multicolored, bone shaped doggie treats. Funny how olfactory input (sense of smell) can can trigger such powerful memories. There is a hardware store that I have frequented here in Merced for almost 22 years-- OSH. Sadly, this store is closing and oddly enough, I feel somewhat emotional about it. It isnít a huge store by modern standards, but certainly large when compared to the little corner store of my youth. It has almost anything I need for home repair. The scent that I normally associate with hardware stores of old is totally absent there. The aisles and shelves, however, are filled with reminders of the thousands of projects that I have done over the years for my wife, children and home. After two decades shopping there, it had come to the point when young clerks would come to me asking for help.

The store had come to be an extension of my garage. Somewhere under those bare fluorescent bulbs, and between the spools of rope and the garden center, the store and I had connected. Each new home project was in some small part a test of my ability as a father and husband to to provide for my family. No, there werenít any log cabins to build, barns to be raised, or caves to be wrested from saber tooth tigers, but all the garbage disposal replacements, paint projects, etc., presented their own set of challenges and OSH was there with me the entire way.

This weekend, cars circled the parking lot like buzzards over a zebra carcass in the Serengeti. These fowl scavengers were looking to pick the last morsel from the store shelves and I was repulsed by each and every one of them. I went in, bought the yellow electrical tape I needed, and left. I couldnít bear to loo back at my old friendís ignominious suffering.

Next week, I will be left to wander the cold, byzantine caverns of Lowe's and Home Depot. Oddly, a buddy of mine at work, a new young homeowner, didnít know that OSH was still open. The guy lives for his Home Depot and I just donít get it. While those super ďhome improvementĒ stores ire very well stocked, for me to shop there would be much like Odysseusí son, Telemachus, calling one of Penelopeís suitors, ďdaddy.Ē I don't know if I can do that. My joints donít appreciate the hundreds of yards I have to walk on those polished concrete floors in the Sisyphusian task of finding a simple hardware sundry. Why am I forced to wander among rows of washers and dryers, countless displays of tile, and pallets of barbecues when I want is a plain box of 4 penny nails? Is this progress? I guess to each man goes his own hardware store, but why did they have to take mine away?

Sulking in Merced,


Posted:  10/6/2013

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