Edgartown Hardware will open at 7:30 am on Monday and will close at 4 pm just as it does every day in winter. They’ll still answer the phone at 508-627-4338. But pretty much everything else will be different.
For starters, the store is now located at 61 West Tisbury Road across the street from the Edgartown School. The hardware store, a fixture on lower Main Street for 64 years, is closed this week while owners John and Pat Montes are moving about a half-mile to the new location, the building that originally housed the Old Colony Chevrolet and Jeep dealership.
Then there’s the space. Lots of space. The new store has 7,000 square feet of retail display, more than double the size downtown. The downtown location had that wonderful, old-timey hardware store smell and well-worn, creaky wooden floorboards, an environment enticing enough to offset the risk of claustrophobia in cramped, narrow aisles and the possibility of bonking your fellow shoppers with your new window shades on the way to the cashier.
The move is a big deal around here. The Monteses are regarded as good, solid, community people who made it worth walking a couple hundred yards sometimes to do business with them. While parking downtown in spring and summer is as rare as an Islander staying up past 10 pm, the new location has parking galore — in front, in back, and wrapped around the sides.
All good reasons to move, but still… “We have terribly mixed emotions,” Mr. Montes said last Friday during a tour of the new store. “Lauress Fisher started this business in 1946, then his nephew, Billy Anderson, ran it before we bought it in 2001.”
The Main Street store was leased from Ben Hall Jr. who is actively seeking a replacement business. “We’ve had some lukewarm offers, but frankly I’m getting concerned,” Mr. Hall said. “The lease is up shortly. The space is among the largest retail spaces (3,200 square feet) on Main Street. Ice cream and tee-shirt shops are always looking for new locations, but it’s important to retain a diverse mix on Main Street. We think it would be a perfect space for a restaurant or for a creative retailer.”
Mr. Montes knows the value of Main Street. “If we had some parking and enough space, we’d have stayed there forever,” he said.”We were just out of space. A lot of inventory wasn’t even on display. It was upstairs or downstairs in storage.”
That’s changed in the new location. If you didn’t know Edgartown Hardware sold ironing boards, coffee pots, and cupcake baking tins, they do, always have. Now customers will be able to see the 10,000 different items for sale, arrayed on 10 display shelves, each 24 feet long, creating wide shopping aisles marked by large clear signs.
“We are offering more depth and more variety [of products], particularly in electrical and plumbing supplies and housewares, and look at this,” Mr. Montes said, gesturing toward a 32-foot display of nails, screws, nuts and bolts, wrapping around a side wall of the building. “We had maybe eight or 10 feet before.”
The Monteses seem committed to taking the community feel with them from Main Street. Mr. Montes has finished installing a large, well-appointed meeting room with a desk and four chairs behind the retail space for use by his commercial customers. “When we were designing the space, it popped into my head that a lot of our contractors and interior decorators don’t have offices,” he said. “That can make meetings with their customers awkward sometimes. This way, all they have to do is call up to reserve, and its theirs to use.”
The meeting room is next to the store’s break room and hard by the complementary Keurig coffeemaker. Two bays in the back end of the building have been converted into covered receiving and loading areas. “No more standing in the weather to load your purchases,” Mr. Monte said. A cutting room for glass, plexiglass, and pipe is in place between the bays.
There’s other new stuff. Two showrooms, one for paint and interior design products and another for a new line of outdoor living products are in place to the left of the front door and the retail area. “Customers can now sit at a table without distraction and look at thousands of Benjamin Moore paint color charts and paint chips compared with a single carousel in an aisle, all we had room for downtown,” Mr. Montes said.
A similar environment has been created for the outdoor living showroom. “We have fountains and patio furniture and an extensive line of barbecues and grills of all sorts,” Mr. Montes said, introducing a new emphasis for the store.
Edgartown Hardware is planning for the long term. Mr. Montes said he has agreed on a long-term lease on the building.
“The lease will extend far beyond my working life, so the next guy can get a good start,” Mr. Montes said. “Would I have liked to buy the building? Sure, but the owner didn’t want to sell it. His business is leasing his commercial real estate. I respect that. This is fine.”
Mr. Montes declined to discuss the scope of his financial investment in inventory and a recently completed five-month renovation “from the walls out,” as he put it, but credited the work of 18 contractors, nearly all Island firms, who created the new Edgartown Hardware.
“How much? A lot, a whole lot,” he said. “But if I’m responsible for this business, that means I’m responsible for making it a viable business for the future.
“I believe we can double our business in this location. We have to, given the investment — but we’ll do it. May take a couple of years, but we’ll do it.”