by Pete Mazzaccaro
We learned last week that The Wyndmoor Supply Company, 907 E. Willow Grove Ave. in Wyndmoor, will soon be closing. The company, which is going out of business after more than 20 years at that location, will be a pretty big loss in Wyndmoor and in the nearby neighborhoods of Chestnut Hill and Cheltenham. Yes, we have one of the best hardware stores on the planet in Kilian’s (I’ll get back to them soon), but it’s always nice to have options.
Neighborhood hardware stores are perhaps one of the most important and probably most overlooked amenities. For anyone who owns a home, having a hardware store in walking distance – for that screwdriver you suddenly need, or a box of nails – is a great thing to have. When that store suddenly closes, you notice.
Glenside Hardware, which occupied a spacious corner building at 127 S. Easton Road, was just such a place. A perfect spot for painting supplies, tools, etc, its closure last summer has left a significant void in the neighborhood. The Home Depot in Cheltenham, a purgatory of long lines and little help, is no substitute.
Now, in our corner of the city’s suburbs, Kilian’s, Holod’s of Lafayette Hill and Oreland Hardware are the only neighborhood options left. Why would hardware stores close up?
Local hardware stores have been suffering for at least the last 15 years as competition from big box chains like Lowes and Home Depot have taken a lot of their business. In the last 10 years or so, co-op arrangements with national brands like Ace and True Value have helped neighborhood shops stay competitive with the big box stores.
But now even the big box stores are being challenged by the ubiquity and ease of Amazon, which can ship anything anywhere for less than any other option. And they’ll ship it to you for free in two days or less. Amazon has hurt retail everywhere and of every size. I often wonder how anyone can compete with a company that offers what they do, and can afford to do so even at perpetual loss.
Local shops still have something to offer. I was recently reminded of this a month ago. I had bought a replacement valve for a water pipe in my basement. Half way through the job, one of the compression ferrules – a small ring that slides over the pipe and allows one to seal a pipe to the valve with a hard turn of a nut instead of solder and a blowtorch – was bent. It would not slip over the pipe. If I couldn’t get another ferrule, I’d have to buy another valve.
I sped to Kilian’s to make sure I was there before its 3 p.m. Sunday closing. I held up the bent ferrule to a young man behind the counter. Within five minutes I was walking out of Kilian’s with two replacements (an extra just in case) that I had paid about 20 cents for.
If we lose our independent hardware stores, we’re in for more than just inconvenience – the level of service and expertise and options cannot be replaced. Could you buy a single ferrule in Lowes or Home Depot? No you couldn’t. And if you could, good luck finding anyone to help you find it on those cluttered shelves.