Friends and family gather for community center's last days.
There were tears, hugs, laughter and sighs as Newhall Hardware opened its doors Tuesday for its last hurrah.
The 60-year old community institution, one of a disappearing breed of fix-it places where clerks actually know how to plane a door or what widgets you really need to finish a project, is a victim of the times.
No longer able to compete with big box “home improvement” stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot, the customer-service oriented staff began a tearful goodbye to hundreds of customers, many of them crowding around the store’s entrance before the 10 a.m. opening.
“I moved here in 1979 and started shopping here,” said customer Joe Lampert. “You could always find exactly what you needed when you needed it here, especially for some of the older homes in the area.” Lampert said he’s not looking forward to having to travel into the San Fernando Valley for parts that the bigger stores don’t carry.
“This was the only place to come to when I moved here in 1971,” said Tom Tucker, a Sand Canyon resident who regularly made the trip into town to shop at Newhall Hardware. “You could actually ask someone a question and they’d have an answer for you. It was true what they said, ‘If you need it, you can walk in here and get it.’”
Some customers were surprised at the closure, which was announced over the weekend.
“You could have knocked me over with a feather,” said long-time resident Andy Sherry. “This is a bastion of the community. I thought they’d be here forever.”
“We saw the writing on the wall about two years ago,” owner Vic Feany said. “I did everything wrong from the day I took over this place, but I didn’t want to do it any other way.”
Feany’s store was one where regulars and newcomers could gather around an antique cash register and never-empty peanut barrel to find out what was happening in town as well as how to fix the leak in their bathrooms. The average age of the customer looking to touch base with the staff in Tuesday was 55. It was clear that to many, this wasn’t a business relationship, but friendships that would be missed.
While visitors tried to blame redevelopment and traffic patterns for the store’s demise, Feany said he knew it wasn’t just one problem that forced his hand.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said, looking around the office filled with antiques and memorabilia of the store’s six decades of commerce. “Sure, redevelopment could have gone faster, but the whole town has changed.”
You could say the store is another casualty of the three-month long writer’s strike; Feany estimated that at least 20 percent of his business came from the studios who filmed in town or industry professionals who lived in town and would stop in on their way to a job for parts or equipment.
“There’s gonna be a big hole here when we’re gone,” he said. “But a building’s just a building; without Newhall Hardware in here, it doesn’t matter if they put in a Starbucks Coffee or a parking lot. I can tell you one thing, though. Newhall’s never gonna be the same.”