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