Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s just a guy thing but today is a bittersweet day in my town.

My local hardware store is closing up shop.

For many years I have been able to avoid the large box everything hardware retailers because  I had a place not more than a mile from here where I could buy anything and/or everything a homeowner needed.  I’ll spare you the complete list of items I’ve purchased there but it runs from paper towels to grass seed to batteries.  And now it’s gone.

The parking lot always had at least two cars in it and while I’m sure no one got rich the store held it’s own against the mass merchandisers.  So it didn’t get crushed or get run out of business.  The owner  who is 70, simply had had enough.  I understand his sentiments.

Here’s quick story about the place where everyone was on a first name basis, clerks and customers.  Sometimes I’d even run into a neighbor and what started out as a quick 10  minute trip to the store turned out to be a half hour session on painting tips or concrete patching.  It was that kind of place.  This story tells you about the kind of place it was, about the people who worked there and about how much I’ll miss it.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina I found myself signing up to volunteer for traveling to Mississippi to help in the clean up and rebuilding.  There was an awful lot to clean up before anyone could even think of rebuilding.

I stopped in to load up on supplies just guessing at what I would need.  I had my own tools but supplementing them with who knows what because the scale of the damage was so enormous and mind boggling.

Knowing that mold was going to be a problem I picked up a couple of boxes of respirators, two pairs of disposable coveralls, rope, duct tape, bleach, batteries and the like.

When I assembled my collection of disaster relief items I took the pile to the counter where I checked out and was about to pay for my order when this ( I swear it’s true) conversation happened between me and the guy behind the register:

” What’s all this for?”

” I’m off to Mississippi to clean up after the hurricane.”

” Take it – no charge.”

And he pushed the bag across the counter towards me.

I heard the same kind of story when someone was loading up for a mission trip.  I suspect the store gave away a lot.  Try that at Mega Mart.

I could go to the store needing a 1/2″ screw for say, a Flux Capacitor, the fellows would help me find it and if I only needed one I often walked out without paying because that’s the kind of place it was.  Why charge someone 12 cents when you knew they would be back in next week and spend $50 on paint.

Even if I needed nothing it was good place to go and wander around looking at row after row of things I didn’t need.

Guess I’ll have to do my wandering somewhere else.