The bins of cheaply-priced odds and ends lining the sidewalk outside Broadway’s Academy Hardware tell the same story as the huge boldface signs hanging above them.
A neighborhood fixture since 1975, Academy Hardware will be relocating to Yonkers from its storefront between 111th and 112th Streets around Christmastime.
Scott Mackles, the owner of the store, said ever-increasing rents factored into his decision not to renew Academy’s lease this year. He also expected his landlord to sell the building. “It was best for me to look around,” he said.
But clearing out hasn’t been easy. Leaning on his elbow at the store’s well-worn wooden back counter, Mackles said, “It’s gut-wrenching.”
The housewares—products added to the store’s repertoire recently to increase business with local students—would be sold first.
“The last thing to go is my hardware,” Mackles said. “I’m going to service my accounts and customers till the last day.”
He also plans to take many of his larger accounts with him to the new store in Yonkers, and will shuttle back and forth to Morningside to keep connections with local customers.
Even as it is packed up, Academy Hardware still smells faintly of paint and sawdust. Its narrow aisles and walls are crammed with saws, tape measures, wrenches, and screws. Customers file in and out to compare the prices of stick-on floor tiles, to copy a set of keys, or to find replacements for rare thumb-sized light bulbs.
Mackles remembers stocking up on snow shovels and salt before the biggest winter disasters. He also recalls one of the last three decades’ many blackouts: “We opened the store, we brought out every candle, every flashlight, and every D battery. People were lined up.”
Over the years, many of his customers and colleagues have called him “the most educated counter-man selling roach traps and making keys.” Mackles was an elementary school teacher with a master’s degree in children and family counseling at a time when, as he said, “the baby boomers weren’t booming,” so there was reduced primary-school enrollment and less demand for teachers.
His father encouraged him to join the family business in 1981, and since then, Mackles has learned the intricacies of construction trades on-the-job from the electricians, plumbers, and carpenters that trod in work boots through his store each day.
“Foot traffic is not the same,” he said. “Ma and pa stores, we’re a dying breed.”
Sara Vogel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.