• Kendra Bertsch

I Love Hardware Stores

I love hardware stores. And I am not talking about the big box giants. I am talking about the small town hardware stores with squeaky hardwood floors as you walk down the narrow aisles. A popcorn machine popping in the background, a buttery treat for customers.

I went into a local hardware store not long ago, looking for some garden supplies and paint for a DIY project. As I was roaming around, searching for my list of items, I had this growing feeling of satisfaction and content. I could not figure out why I had this sudden feeling of happiness walking into a hardware store.

It seemed odd to me at first. I mean, a shoe store is always amazing to me. And who doesn’t love hitting up Hobby Lobby or Michaels for a serious home décor fix. But, a small hardware store…really?! I have not been in one for at least two years, and that during a very stressful home repair issue. So, I could not for the life of me figure out why this tiny hole-in-the-wall hardware store was so serene to me. Then, it finally hit me...

The earliest memory I have is when I was about 4 or 5 years old and in the garage with my dad at our old house in Newcastle. At that time, my dad was working on one of his prized possessions, his 1955 Ford pickup. If my dad was not at work, he was in the garage working on something, most likely the Ford. I used to sit on this old raggy kitchen stool that had rips in the chair seat. Dad would give me an old box of rusty, misshapen nails, a small-nosed hammer and a beaten-up old piece of 2x4. I would sit on that raggy kitchen stool and hammer nails into that 2x4, missing most of the time I am sure.

I would sit out there with Dad while he rolled underneath the truck, working away at something I could not see. He would tinker with the mechanics, change the oil, and start up the engine every so often. I was fascinating to me.

Once in a while, my dad would fire up the Ford and he would take me with him on his trip downtown to the local hardware store. On one of these trips, I saw the Playboy Bunny logo air freshener dangling from the mirror. As any kid would do, I asked him, “What is that?” pointing to the simple bunny in tie design. He just chuckled. I do not remember his response, but I can guarantee my dad chuckled. I think he took it down after that question…I mean how do you explain the Playboy Bunny to a toddler? He couldn’t lie and tell me it was Bugs Bunny. I was big into my Saturday morning cartoons at that time and knew who Bugs Bunny was.

Anyway, once we got to the hardware store, I would go in with him and I remember the smell of the store. It always smelled like metal, wood, and stale…something. I do not remember the things Dad bought. I remember following him around, eyeing the weird hardware gadgets and wondering how they function.

My recent hardware store visit rekindled some of those memories for me. I thought about this some more and discovered something else. My family is definitely a family of trade. My dad grew up on a small dairy and grain farm, rigging equipment up when needed, and went to school to be a mechanic. His brother went on to build custom cabinets. Both my grandparents were talented wood workers. My brother, when he has time, builds log furniture. This gave me the realization that I want to work in an industry where I can build, design, and be creative. It further solidified my “Why” for going back to college for a Bachelor of Interior Design.

I am happy to say that I am finishing up my second term of class and will be starting my third term soon. I have a lot to learn. It has helped that I was a part time employee at Lowe’s for a few years. I picked up a lot of knowledge from the wonderful team I worked with while there. I will continue my graphic design/communications career for now. I have some DIY furniture projects in mind and want to start on those this winter as well.

My back-up plan to college…woodworking!

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