Newtown Hardware House officially CHANGHS HANDS
NEWTOWN BOROUGH – The historic Newtown Hardware House on State Street officially changed hands on Monday, passing from longtime owner-operator Dave Callahan to its new owner, Newtown Borough resident Bill Newell.
“It just seemed terribly sad to let this go without a fight,” Newell said on Monday. “If it wasn’t going to be me -- who else could? I thought I’d give it a shot.”
Callahan, who purchased the store from Bob Davis in 1985, was days away from liquidating his store when Newell stepped forward and offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse.
The Hardware House owner has watched as the heart and soul of his customer base - small building contractors and farmers - have dwindled due to the economic conditions impacting the housing and building industry.
On Monday, as the sale was finalized, Callahan couldn’t help but be emotional. “I was a little sad this morning because of course it’s been my life here for almost 28 years,” he said. “The good side is I’ll be retiring and also I will still be here a few days a week,” he said. “It will be good to still have my hand in the hardware business.”
Callahan, who said he is looking forward to working with the new owner on a part-time basis, said he’d “like to thank the community for all the support they’ve given me all the years. I certainly appreciate some of the friends I’ve made. I hope to still see the people I’ve gotten to know.”
Callahan continued, “It’s been wonderful here. Most all of the people I’ve met have been terrific people. That’s just the way the community is.”
While Callahan will “keep his hand in the hardware business,” he also will give himself a small break. He and his wife, Mary, will take a one-week vacation to Massachusetts and Maine, where they’ve been going for 20 years.
“It’s a little late in the season,” he said. “But with everything going on here I had to hold off.”
Taking a moment to reflect back on his time at the Hardware House, Callahan has plenty of stories to tell. But one of his favorites is when the previous owner advised him to learn all of the customers’ names in one week.
“Sometimes I’d look at them and I’d almost panic because I couldn’t remember their name,” he said with a chuckle. “As soon as I relaxed I remembered. After a few months, I really knew everyone’s name.”
Callahan said a few weeks ago when the community learned the store would be changing hands, he said that people feared everything in the store would change.
“I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” he said. “The community will appreciate the things they can do here … All businesses need changes. I think it’s going to be a breath of fresh air.”
Newell, who is bringing years of experience to the Hardware House as a lifelong businessman, investor and owner-operator of businesses across the United States, assures the community that the store is “always going to be a hardware store. We have loyal customers.”
Newell said it is important to remember that the hardware store has operated continuously since the 1860s. “That’s phenomena!”
“We don’t want to alienate anyone or let anyone think we’re not going to be in the hardware store [business],” he said. “But with Home Depot and other stores, the world has changed.”
Newell said people are “not going to patronize the store because it’s nostalgic. We will offer things our competition cannot or will not.”
“Quite unique” new items will be added to the inventory, he said. “We have to realize as much as everyone likes the store, the store has to survive on its own merit,” he said. “And to do that it’s got to provide services and products that consumers find valuable.
“We will do some things and have things people can’t get elsewhere,” he said.
During the coming weeks, Newell said he will be relying heavily on Callahan for advice. Callahan will be working with the new owner for at least the short term to make sure the new operation gets off “on the right foot.”
He describes Callahan as “a wonderful man. He’s been a real asset to the community in his role as owner and operator [of the hardware store]. Those who live in the borough or nearby owe him a debt of gratitude.”
Newell said he stepped forward to buy the hardware store because it is “an important icon you identify with living here.”
Dave Callahan, right, owner/operator of Newtown Hardware House has finalized the sale of his business on State Street in Newtown Borough. Employees pictured with him are, from left: Harry Winick, Eric Boice, Sue Long, Walt Wardle and Callahan.