I love bolts and nuts and hardware so much that 40 years ago we were about to open a hardware store in our small town. Instead, we opened an office supply store, and someone else opened a hardware store. We made some money, but the owner of the hardware store stumbled upon a gold mine and now lives on his 200 foot yacht off the coast of Greece.
I love hardware stores, and I’m not talking about Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards or Tractor Supply, all of which look the same. But we live 30 minutes from the nearest Home Depot, which means it takes an hour to buy a car or a piece of lava soap. (Can you believe our local grocery doesn’t sell lava?) You’d think no one would work hard enough to get their hands dirty. And maybe they’re right.)
When I talk about the hardware store, I’m talking about those who serve small rural communities. Our shop is similar in many ways to last year’s general store, where you can buy pet food, rhododendrons, Carharta sweatshirts, soft drinks, 5-hour energy drinks, chocolate and deck screws – all in one place. We even have a brand new frozen section for recently divorced men who want to buy their dinner in the same store where they buy chainsaws.
Our local hardware store is packed, so every morning they bring out plants, barbecues, patio furniture and even dinosaurs for the garden, so the sidewalk outside looks like a Tijuana fair! Our local hardware store doesn’t sell beer and wine yet, but releases free popcorn on weekends, which attracts customers as police doughnuts. The smell of oil-soaked popcorn has something that makes you want to buy a $300 leaf blower.
Over the years I have developed my hardware with a huge collection of nuts, bolts, hinges, washers, refrigerator lamps, bearings, padlocks, insect repellent, metric supports, O-rings and WD 40. (You can never have enough WD 40s!) I’m so well stocked that in the rare cases that there’s nothing available in the hardware store, they send a customer to my house.
I generally prefer root canal to shopping. So while my wife buys our supplies at the supermarket and drugstores, I do a little retail therapy by getting blisters on my MasterCard at the hardware store and doing the same by buying supplies such as air fresheners and bulk bags. Despite the fact that with the arrival of the nail guns since 1982 nobody has popped a nail anymore.
The best thing about the local hardware stores is that if the rubber flap on the back of the toilet breaks, you won’t be able to wait for Amazon to deliver the replacement part, or make a few trips to the Home Depot to be on the road for an hour and wait for a salesman to help you. I wouldn’t want to live near a town that doesn’t have its own hardware store, and that’s why.
Recently a faucet in my bathroom jumped on a push button and I thought it would be easy to fix, even though it was 35 years ago. I thought all I needed was a rubber disc on the bottom. When I took it back the first time, the saleswoman told me (as it says on her ID card) that I just bought the wrong washing machine. On my second return trip, my assistant offered to buy me a whole tribe, which to my disappointment was the wrong size. Just like the third and fourth trip. On my fifth trip I put on a disguise and waited for the assistant who had helped me earlier to take a break. A new employee offered me a different solution, but I never got the right role. I decided to go to the shop on my next visit to the big city to avoid further shame.
A few days later, when I brought the wrong part to our local store for a refund, the seller fortunately didn’t recognize me. I apologized and said: I have to set a record because I usually have to go to the hardware store the same day.
She just laughed and said: No, all I heard at halftime was some idiot coming back five times!
Can you imagine? I’m afraid so.
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