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October 12, 2010 > History: Hardware Stores - A Family Affair

History: Hardware Stores - A Family Affair

Where do you go for parts and pieces when you need to build or repair something? When you need nails, tools, screws, faucets, light bulbs, etc? You go to your favorite hardware store, of course. However, early pioneers didn't have that luxury. They had to either fashion their own parts and pieces or find a store that carried such items.

Merchants stocked hardware before the term became popular. Washington Township merchants probably used the term before it appeared in their advertisements. D. C. Baine and Son in Centerville advertised general merchandise, dry goods, groceries and hardware in 1879. W. W. Hirsch of Irvington sold hardware and furniture in 1907. Later Thompson Hardware, located in Niles, featured the word in its name.

Bert and Marie McIvor came to Mission San Jose in 1927 and established their home. Bert purchased Frank Martin's Blacksmith Shop and started his own business. He added hardware in the front of the shop and eventually phased out the blacksmith business. His son Bob joined the hardware business in 1952, and they erected a building next door to house it. Bob constructed a new building on Ellsworth Street and moved the business there in 1990.

Bob helped countless homeowners through the years. He was generous with his time and knowledge and always helped them solve their maintenance and repair problems. Al Auer married Barbara McIvor in 1974 and became an important part of the business about 1985. He has overseen the installation of computer technology and creation of the company's website. Al continues Bob's tradition of friendly and helpful service.

Another example of a successful family hardware store was Glenmoor Hardware. Bob and Jim Wilson opened the store in the Glenmoor Shopping Center in 1955. Jim already lived in Fremont, and Bob commuted from his home in Oakland until he moved his family here in 1956. Dan Scott later bought Jim's interest in the business. The store was very popular in the area and the owners were friendly. They helped people with home repair problems, often going out to homes for complimentary consultations. Besides a full range of hardware products, they had housewares and sporting goods sections. Bob was especially popular at Christmas - particularly with husbands - because he wrapped and decorated glittery holiday gifts for wives and families.

When Bob was named Glenmoor Merchant of the Month in 1964, his 10-year-old daughter, Susan, wrote "My Dad the Hardware Man" for the News Register. She described her Dad and the store's services telling how children enjoyed the store. She said that 12-year-old Richard worked there part time, that she had "been trying to get a job" and that 18-month-old John had "been eyeing the store for some time." To this day, daughter Anne Marie enjoys, along with her siblings and Dan's daughter Margie, visiting hardware stores because they bring back wonderful memories of Glenmoor Hardware.

When Center Square Shopping Center in Centerville was about to open in 1954, Harry "Bill" Smith saw an opportunity for a new store and approached Mr. Hale, owner of Hale Hardware in San Leandro. The two men inspected the Centerville site and agreed that it was a good location for a second Hale Hardware Store. Bill planned to run the Centerville site and Mr. Hale would continue to manage the San Leandro store.

Bill ordered signs and supplies and installed fixtures in the empty retail space. As they prepared to open for business Mr. Hale died suddenly, and Hale Hardware was dissolved. Bill had invested all his money in the business and could not afford a new sign, so he changed the H in Hale to D for Dale, thus honoring his daughter.

Dale Hardware opened in 1955 and quickly prospered. Business was so good that they had to expand. They took over the space vacated by the Lucky Store when it moved to the Brookvale Shopping Center. Dale Hardware soon outgrew all available space and needed a new location. Bill bought a block of land on Post Street, erected a new building, and moved the business there in 1983.

The new building featured a novel way of storing reserve stock around the perimeter. The hardware business continued to be brisk, and Dale added a separate showroom called Water Concepts in 1988 with high end kitchen and bath products. Another innovation was delivery to commercial customers.

Bill Smith died in 1983, but his commitment to employees and customers lives on under the leadership of his son Garth. Dale Hardware is also recognized as a strong supporter of community events, an institution of civic pride, and truly a community treasure.

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