The hardware store in the town where I grew up had been around over 100 years, until recently. Driving around back home a while ago I noted it’s now a nick-nack shop. Like so many other little hardware stores it folded due to lack of support. It’s a bit sad that a hardware store that was around when a hitching post was considered parking could simply disappear one day — but when I got to thinking about it, that’s not really what happened.
The old-school hardware store flourished back in the day because it sold what the general public in that area needed. The problem moving forward was that as the community grew and changed, the old hardware store didn’t reflect the same change. That’s not to say they didn’t change at all but rather they couldn’t keep the status of “catch-all supply depot” that they’d enjoyed in decades past.
The community’s needs became so widespread that a small general hardware store just couldn’t pace folks who were diverging from the rather limited fields of focus seen in days gone by. In the case of the Krum Hardware store the town went from a few hundred people all centered about rural farm life to a few thousand people who have nothing to do with farming. Each household has different interests and needs , and it’s extremely difficult to cut a large enough cross section out of that to keep a tiny hardware store afloat.
Some stores were able to adapt to the change by concentrating on service or by carving out a specialized niche for themselves. A few just changed direction entirely and became lumber yards or equipment dealers. And some, like the little hardware store in my hometown, just didn’t make it.
In all honesty it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me — the Krum Hardware store didn’t carry the tools and stock we needed even when I was growing up. We would often drive right by it on our way to the larger lumber yard or big box in the next town over because we needed stuff they didn’t have.
It hurts to see the store close; however if we’re to learn anything from the last century it’s that nothing lasts forever. To put it in perspective, the feed store and saloon that were right next to the hardware store in the 1880s are also gone, but their run was much shorter. So in the grand scheme of things, the hardware store was more of a success than anyone around the turn of the century might’ve predicted.