The rumor1 proved all too bitterly true: Park's Hardware, a downtown institution of Orono, Maine, since 1898, would be closing.
Word spread quickly. Locals cajoled, cross-examined, and pleaded with Lin, the owner of the store, to no avail. Running a small, local, family-owned hardware business was no longer a profit maker2. The town's affection for Park's Hardware was just not enough to allow it to prevail against the giant warehouse3 stores that loomed4, discount-laden, down the road in Bangor.
I was one member of the milling masses that began to filter through Park's as, day by day, the wax lettering on the front window changed from "20% OFF EVERYTHING" to "30%," "40%," and on and on, like the death of a thousand cuts until the only things left were the light sockets5 and doorknobs.
It's a difficult thing to see a hardware store go. A hardware store is special because it sells the things that allow us to indulge our tinkering habits, can-do-it-ness, and creativity, and in the process improve our immediate6 surroundings to suit our tastes. There are few things more satisfying than a new coat of paint on a weary wall, or a new lock set requiring only the knowledge of how to spin a screwdriver7. From such a small investment of cash and time, a hardware store affords one a wholesale8 return of satisfaction.
The cynic might argue that one can accomplish the same end by shopping at the big-box warehouses9 whose footprints are measured not in square feet, but acres. Well, maybe sometimes, but certainly not always. And the likelihood of feeling forsaken10 in such a wasteland is high.
I recall the time I was rummaging11 in one of the aisles12 of a Bangor hardware fortress13 for a wireless14 door chime that Park's didn't carry. I found the thing, but didn't understand the following gloss15 on the package: "Red light in