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South Side Hardware Store Ends 74-Year Run

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pittsburgh’s South Side was a different neighborhood in 1936 when Stanley J. Tumas scraped together $800 to open his T&T Hardware store on East Carson Street.

“It was an old ethnic neighborhood. People took pride in that neighborhood,” said his son, Mike Tumas, 59, of Coudersport, Potter County, who has decided to close the store his father started 74 years ago.

The hardware store became a staple of the neighborhood anchored by the nearby J&L Steel mill, he said.

“Guys would get laid off. Their wives would say, ‘You’re painting the house,’ ” Mike Tumas said. “We did well. We did a good business.”

And the business grew over the years. It doubled in size when Stanley Tumas knocked down a wall separating the building.

Father and son worked hard.

“You spent vacations, days off, working at the store,” Mike Tumas said. “That was our life.”

But T&T and other neighborhood hardware stores found it hard to compete with big box chain stores and a changing market. Modernization — fax machines and computers — proved difficult for veteran shopkeepers used to sales receipt books with 50 pages in them, Mike Tumas said.

“My dad’s idea of a fax machine was to hand you a receipt and say, ‘Run this down the corner,’ ” Mike Tumas said.

Three people will lose their jobs when T&T closes before the end of the year. Tumas said he tried to sell the business but found no takers. He plans to sell the building.

“A lot of commercial accounts told me they were leaving Pittsburgh and Allegheny County because of the taxes,” he said. “What commercial businesses are on the South Side anymore?”

Hardware stores used to dot the area — three in Mt. Washington, two in Allentown, four in the South Side.

“We ran longer than most,” said Mark McNally, T&T’s manager.

It was an uphill run.

Home Depot said its sales during the third quarter totaled $16.6 billion, a 1.4 percent increase from the third quarter of fiscal 2009. Lowe’s Cos. Inc. reported sales for the quarter increased 1.9 percent to $11.6 billion, up from $11.4 billion in the third quarter of 2009.

“It’s hard to fight the big guys — they are so big,” said Duquesne University marketing professor Audrey Guskey. “These are family owned, the money stayed here, and the owners poured their hearts and souls into the business.”

The inventory at T&T Hardware, kept in homemade wooden drawers and metal bins, will be liquidated before the store closes, Tumas said.

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