Writer Dave Donelson left his successful business career in 1999 to become a full-time freelance writer. In 2020 he both completed a memoir of his life growing up (entitled Fathers: A Memoir) and began a daily journal where he posts his thoughts, observations, and insights each day. Titled “The Journal of My Seventieth Year: A Memoir In Real Time,” the first volume of this daily diary is now available for purchase on Amazon.
We are delighted to share with agebuzz readers select individual posts from Dave’s journal, as well as the photography that accompanies his journal entries. Below is his first selection for us.
Death In The Village: Monday, July 20, 2020
The neighborhood hardware store in my village died this year. Greg, the son of the original proprietor, the ever-jovial Bert, called it quits, bringing an end to 43 years of selling odds and ends to handymen and do-it-yourselfers, posting holiday pictures drawn by local school kids in the windows, and endless unhurried chats over the counter with various idlers like myself about the weather, golf, and classic rock n’ roll. Truth be told, it wasn’t much of a hardware store, but it was a fine place to pass the time of day.
The store had far from everything you might need, but it had most of the essentials. A few hand tools- the ones that wear out most easily- hung from pegs on the wall to your right as you came in. Hinges, latches, and knobs were to your left. A niche at the very front of the store held racks and bins of screws, nuts, bolts, and washers. Toilet kits and other plumbing parts were in the second aisle, electrical items in the third, and paint was in the fourth. You could get a key made on the machine behind the counter and a window screen repaired in the shop behind the store.
The biggest asset of the store was Bert. Hand him an odd screw and he knew exactly where to find a replacement for it. Ask him which tube of caulk would perform best on plastic frames, and he could tell you. Try that at Home Depot and you’ll be lucky to get any answer, much less the right one. I once overheard a clerk there tell a customer the only difference between a belt sander and a random orbital sander was the shape of the sandpaper!
So what killed Silver Lake Hardware? The villains are the big box stores, according to Greg. When they opened some twenty years ago they took an immediate bite out of the business. Home Depot has two stores within fifteen minutes of Silver Lake Hardware, each one probably fifty times larger than the locally-owned store. Next came online shopping, where the nearest Amazon “store” is on the cell phone in your pocket. If you can wait a couple of days, you can get just about anything delivered from either Amazon or Home Depot- for free. They don’t provide much personal service, but convenience and endless selection more than make up for that shortcoming.
Also contributing to the demise of the hardware store, though, was the inherent handicap of any mom-and-pop business. Mom and Pop can’t physically run a store seven days a week, much less twenty-four hours every day. Even with a grown son and daughter-in-law to lend a hand, Bert had to close on Sundays, a prime time for DIYers who need a quick tube of glue or a box of nails to finish their repair before they go to work on Monday morning. If the neighborhood store isn’t open, they’ll find one that is.
When Bert died, the soul of the store passed with him,. But the pandemic delivered the real knockout punch that brought Silver Lake Hardware to the canvas. The store was classified an essential business, but Greg’s health put him in a high-risk category, so he limited his hours. It didn’t matter since the customers stayed home anyway.
That’s all it took. The going-out-of-business signs went up and the neighborhood hardware store died a sad but all-too-natural death.