Clos­ing of New­town Hard­ware House a loss for us and for Main Street Amer­ica

The Advance of Bucks County - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Werner

NEW­TOWN – The sign on the front door of the New­town Hard­ware House tells the story that no one wanted to read: Go­ing out of busi­ness.

In six weeks, one of the re­tail sta­ples of the State Street busi­ness community will be his­tory – its creaky floors si­lenced and its tow­er­ing shelves dark­ened by the pas­sage of time and a hurt­ing econ­omy.

Dave Cal­la­han, the owner of the New­town Hard­ware House, af­ter look­ing at his bot­tom line, has made the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to close the busi­ness, which has served New­town for close to 40 years.

Faced with dwin­dling sales and a dif­fi­cult eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment, Cal­la­han has been strug­gling in re­cent years to keep the 37-year busi­ness afloat.

Last year, to bring at­ten­tion to the store’s plight, he had bumper stick­ers printed with the words, “Save New­town Hard­ware House.” The stick­ers were an in­stant hit, bring­ing at­ten­tion to the store, but more im­por­tantly, bring­ing cus­tomers back.

And this past spring, a “cash mob” of sup­port­ers de­scended on the store, spurred on by a Face­book post­ing by cus­tomer Andy Smith, who en­cour­aged peo­ple to show up, “en masse,” to give the busi­ness “a bit of an eco­nomic boost.”

And show up they did. “Mob-

bers” lit­er­ally swamped the store as em­ploy­ees rang up sale af­ter sale, from grass seed, tools and paint to light bulbs and nails dur­ing a busy morn­ing at the store.

They filled the busi­ness with hope, with love, with sup­port. They came be­cause Dave has made a dif­fer­ence in the community and in their lives.

“It makes me feel good,” said Dave at the time of the pub­lic out­pour­ing, as he reached into his heart for the words to de­scribe the in­cred­i­ble morn­ing. “It’s un­be­liev­able. It truly is.”

On Satur­day, when I saw Dave in his usual post be­hind the counter of the store, he said he wasn’t ready to talk. “Maybe in two weeks I’ll have some­thing to say,” he said, the strain of his de­ci­sion clearly weigh­ing on his mind.

The pas­sage of the New­town Hard­ware House from the present into the past will cer­tainly be a sad mo­ment for the town as those large wooden doors swing closed for the fi­nal time on the Hard­ware House.

No doubt, Dave made his de­ci­sion af­ter plenty of thought and with mixed emo­tions as he pre­pares to close a long-stand­ing New­town busi­ness.

In my heart, I’m hop­ing Dave doesn’t in­clude the word fail­ure in his thoughts or that he’s let­ting the community down by his de­ci­sion. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

Long af­ter many lo­cal hard­ware stores had closed their doors, vic­tims of the ar­rival of big box stores like Home De­pot and Lowe’s, Dave kept the doors open for the town, his cus­tomers and his em­ploy­ees. And he did so for as long as he could be­fore eco­nomic re­al­ity forced him into a cor­ner.

Dave has been a bea­con in the New­town community for years, a shin­ing ex­am­ple of what it means to be a small busi­ness owner through his gen­tle and po­lite man­ner, his al- ways help­ful ad­vice, his ever present smile and his will­ing­ness to get in­volved and make the community a bet­ter place.

Dave has given back to the New­town community over and over again, through his ac­tive in­volve­ment with the busi­ness community, his sup­port of community or­ga­ni­za­tions and his lead­er­ship in the New­town His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion where he vol­un­teers hours to pre­serve the town’s past so oth­ers who come af­ter him un­der­stand what came be­fore.

So be­fore Dave and the Hard­ware House fade from the scene, let’s make sure he and his em­ploy­ees know how much the community ap­pre­ci­ates what he has done. Let’s show Dave once again that we un­der­stand and sup­port his de­ci­sion and that he and his em­ploy­ees will be missed by giv­ing him a go­ing out of busi­ness send-off he’ll never for­get.

Per­haps Mayor Den­nis O’Brien could pro­claim Dave Cal­la­han Day in the bor­ough and present him with a procla­ma­tion hon­or­ing him as New­town’s first Small Busi­ness Per­son of the vear, start­ing what could be a new an­nual tradition of sin­gling out mem­bers of our busi­ness community for their good works and tire­less ef­forts.

But as we pre­pare to say good­bye to the New­town Hard­ware House, let’s honor Dave’s com­mit­ment to small busi­ness and to his community by us­ing this clos­ing as a wake-up call.

If we continue to flock to the brand new, big box re­tail­ers and choose to spend our dol­lars over the In­ter­net at re­tail­ers based else­where, Main Street will be a far dif­fer­ent place in the fu­ture – a hol­low shell of its for­mer self.

Let’s make a con­certed ef­fort, es­pe­cially in these chal­leng­ing times, to flock back to our Main Streets and sup­port our lo­cal mer­chants.

Grab a sand­wich at Becky’s Deli next time you’re in town, check out the great records and books at the New­town Book and oecord Ex­change, pur­chase a gift at Dragon Fly, find some­thing for your home at the Nest and cap it off with a treat at the Ze­bra-Striped Whale.

Let’s use the loss of the New­town Hard­ware House to re­mem­ber and sup­port what’s im­por­tant about small town Amer­ica. And at the same time honor Dave for a job well done.

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