T & T Hardware Closing After 74 Years
Pull open the solid wood door with its weathered red paint, walk into T & T Hardware Co. Inc. on the South Side and it’s a bit like stepping back in time.
Wooden shelves line the walls, some all the way to the ceiling, along with rows and rows of little wooden drawers full of screws, nuts and bolts behind a wooden counter along the back. Power tools almost seem out of place in their wood and glass displays.
But next week, after fighting off hard times the last few years, the hardware store fixture on Carson Street begins the process to shut its doors for good.
The “mom and pop” store has too much remaining inventory to liquidate or auction off yet, so beginning Monday, everything is 50 percent off the original price, said manager Mark McNally, 55, of Mount Washington.
They are waiting to see how long it takes to sell most of their inventory to set an exact closing date. This week, they’re just trying to get everything out on the shelves.
Stanley Tumas opened T & T Hardware in 1936. After he retired in the late 1980s, his son, Michael Tumas, took over ownership of the store.
It has stayed in the same spot for the last 74 years, expanding to the side and to the back as the years went on. It was a work in progress until the ’80s, Mr. McNally said.
He says they’ve always had a reputation as the place to go for “odd stuff that no one else has,” like specific plumbing parts, nuts, bolts or screws.
Since he began working at a hardware store in Mount Washington as a teenager and then managing T & T Hardware for the last 15 years, Mr. McNally has seen many changes in the business.
Part of the challenge comes from “big box” stores, like Home Depot. “They’re key why these stores are going,” he said.
Competing with a Lowe’s only five miles away has been difficult.
“It’s just too close. I can show you on my books when they opened,” he said.
Besides competing with large chains, they are competing with the economy as well.
A lot of their business used to come from commercial contractors, but if the contractors don’t have jobs to do, they won’t be coming the hardware store for supplies.
On top of the struggling economy, the South Side is a changing neighborhood.
“For a store like this, the neighborhood has to support it,” he said.
But most people in the neighborhood now rent their houses. Generally, renters aren’t in need of hardware supplies when they can just call their landlord to take care of things.
Saturday used to be the busiest day of the week for a hardware store, Mr. McNally said. Customers who had the day off work would buy their home improvement supplies in the morning. If they were having problems, they would return around noon. If they were really having problems, they would be back again around 3 p.m., Mr. McNally said.
But last year, he started closing on Saturdays — they didn’t have enough weekend business to make it worthwhile anymore.
At one time there were four or five hardware stores just on the South Side, but, he says, “times change. I understand that.”
As Mr. McNally starts a new phase, he has to say goodbye to more than a store and a building.