LeRoy Hardware offers modern service in old-time setting
LEROY — If you have fond memories of the past and want to revisit some of it, the place to go is LeRoy Hardware located at the far northish end of LeRoy’s downtown district.
It’s hard to say it’s actually the north end, unless you have a compass that can pinpoint the direction off Old US-131 that runs by the community between Reed City and Tustin.
Roger Nelson is the proprietor of the business. He actually bought the store in 1980, nearly 100 years after it was started by John Glerum. The store is filled with memories, including pictures of Glerum and other well known residents from the area, photos of the schools, and much, much more.
It’s a lot like walking into a museum when you visit the hardware, and Nelson has done much to keep the old fashioned feeling intact. In fact, he has kept original counters, shelving, floors, stoves and lots of other things in fine shape over the 31 years he has owned the place, and welcomes anyone to just come and visit.
That hometown feeling is a main ingredient in the store, that feeling one gets remembering the past whether it was nearly a hundred years ago, or twenty-five or even less and stopping back just to get one more look around.
Nelson invites anyone to do just that. Other owners included Ben Glerum, John’s son, who ran it until his death in 1967, then it was operated by Aaron and Hazel Ford from 1967 until 1974, from 1974 until 1980 the owners were Wally and Loraine Kwiatkowski, and now the Nelsons.
“You could say we are only the fourth actual family to own it in over 130 years,” Nelson said.
The store has the original old-fashioned “look” about with much of the old-fashioned items used there still a part of it. There are wooden barrels with thistle seed, sunflower seed, grass seed. The old display cases are filled are filled with many reminders of the past including the old-fashioned candies old-timers will remember, including big jars of suckers.
There are hunting, fishing and camping items., the old pot belly stove, a typewriter, and a big picture of John Glerum watches over the continuing operation.
There are pictures of local ball players, even postcards, paint, bird feeders and seed, and kids, and granny and gramps, gumball machines. Ah, yes.
Times have changed some things, however. “Thirty years ago, we didn’t take credit cards,” Nelson said. Nowadays we’re hard pressed not to. Now we order over a computer. Thirty years ago a salesman wrote down the numbers.”
He’s pleased to show off the original counters, the original flooring, a showcase picture dated 1903. And he loves to tell about the overhang on the original counters. “See that,” he said, pointing. “See how they made an overhang on those counters on the customer’s side. That’s so the ladies with hoop skirts could approach the counter and not have it pushed up in the back.”
There’s still a turn of the century tin shop in the back, where all their own pots and pans were made.
Nelson said there has been “an economy effect. The last few years have been pretty flat. There’s still the big box shoppers, but this is where we know the customers by name. Some come in for a gallon of bug spray now and then, or a wire brush. Another might come in to get a key made, and another to send a package. Somebody else might need just a paint roller.
“We love the people here, and those who keep coming back during the summer to see us, or during hunting season,” he said. He showed off the old scale, and while he shared the store’s history to the community, he waited on probably a dozen customers in a half hour.
“We’ve probably got the best selection of V belts in the county, or any of the box stores anywhere around. We’ve got hundreds of V belts.”The store when last checked was open six days a week, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. until 2.
“Customers come in here knowing what they need,” he said, and as they came in, he knew them all by name. “You don’t find that in a box store either.”
Asked about how many customers he waited on, then just wrote down what they bought, who bought it, and how much, and out the door they went. “Oh, that, sure I let people charge. Quite a few have active accounts. It’d be silly not to. They need it. I’ve got it. Don’t have the money? Catch me later.
Looking around, it’s easy to see why people go there. Over here are clothespins and clotheslines, there are the garbage cans and shovels. Flashlights, batteries, coal buckets, sunglasses, kerosene, plumbing fixtures and power tools, dog collars, sports equipment, animal food, and even toys and stationary. Just like those old general stores, way back when.
Or the hardware in LeRoy even now.
“We have flags too, and would you believe a cash register that works without electricity. And Dozer the dog who does guard duty one shift and Sophie the cat, another shift. “She worked nights last night, I guess,” he said with a grin. “Figures she’d take the morning off, so guess you can’t meet her today.”
For Nelson, the hardware has been a labor of love. He said so, and a man watching him write up a slip showing what he was getting and what he owes, said “You know, I come in here all the time. If he’s not busy, I stay and visit a bit. If he’s busy, I just stand around and keep my mouth shut, then when he’s not, I stay and visit a bit.”