You save this weekend bumbler enough times, Hardware Guy, and you own my loyalty forever.
For years the old-fashioned hardware store has seen its numbers dwindle, not only because of the promise of lower prices at home centers but because of Internet interlopers, bumpy economies, landlords who can charge higher rent to branch banks. During the decade ending in 2010, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the number of independents in the U.S. fell by 854, to 12,122. But during that period, their sales grew enough to keep overall revenue steady.
Myself, I’m bullish. I shop at my local place, Clinton Hill Hardware in Brooklyn, New York, owned by a guy named Gustavo and staffed mostly by his sons. The store is too small to always have everything I want—you could fit two of them in Home Depot’s tool corral alone. But they know their stuff. A high schooler in a big-box vest can tell you that the duct tape lives half a mile away in aisle 1,752, but guys like Gustavo and Mean Hardware Guy and the descendants of the founder of Mahan’s can tell you which trowels are for skim coating, which brand of screwdriver has lasted him the most decades, and why you need a hammer drill to attach your porch light to the brick. For that kind of knowledge, a little mean is worth it.