Random PoP Query – Are Neighborhood Hardware Stores Doomed?


The other day a buddy mine was replacing a stove for me and asked me to pick up a plug. I was without a car and thought, oh, I’ll just head over to Cooper’s Hardware on 14th Street. Sadly it seems Cooper’s has been closed since Jan and it’s not clear if they’ll reopen. Walking around last Friday, I recalled that Bemmi’s Hardware at 12th and Florida has also been closed for ages. So I know there Pfeiffer’s in Mt. P and Logan Hardware on P Street but I’m wondering if neighborhood hardware stores will be able to survive. I guess everyone goes to Home Depot these days. So what do you think – can neighborhood hardware stores survive? Do you have a favorite? Or is it cool just to head over to Home Depot?


32 Comment

  • This is a topic that I feel passionate about! No, it is not cool (for me at least) to just head over to Home Depot, because the Home Depot on Rhode Island is my own personal version of HELL.

    I’ve been to a lot of Home Depots across the country, and that one is a real prize. The only use I have for it is to use it as an example of laughably bad customer service in DC for out of town guests who might not otherwise believe me.

    Cooper Hardware…. ah Cooper Hardware. I guess this just goes to show that you actually can’t stay in business as a hardware store if you have zero inventory and don’t open on Sundays.

    Frager’s and Logan Hardware are the only good ones I’ve found- but I haven’t ventured very far west. Or the Home Depot in College Park is okay if you’re in the mood for a big box.

  • I live around the corner and would love to see that store become something useful again. Maybe a cafe or bakery? I’m all for more breakfast options in the neighborhood.

  • I don’t think that the local hardware store is doomed, but they’ve got to have a good buinsess plan. They’ve got to be in good location, with access from many directions, have good hours, good selection, and good staff.

    Cooper was only accessible from the 14th street buses. It was a little far from the metro. Probably a lot of people coming by metro could get basic hardware needs at Target. They had no parking. And last i checked they weren’t open outside of 8-5 M-F. What kind of customer demographic were they targeting?

    I’ve only been to Home Depot once since I’ve lived here. It isn’t that close to me. Usually I go to Logan Hardware. they have decent stock, their staff are knowledgeable and friendly, have workable hours and they are conveniently located.

  • I’ve never been to Frager’s when it wasn’t packed. I don’t see it going anywhere any time soon. I usually go there first for everything, and I think that’s the same for most people in our neighborhood. There are some things where I think Frager’s is really overpriced (Christmas trees, for example) and I will go to someplace like Home Depot. But for most things, Frager’s is the best, closest place. (Including renting all sorts of things like outdoor patio heaters and popcorn machines.)

  • saf

    Frager’s, Strosneider’s, Logan (and its sister stores in Glover, and Mt Vernon Triangle, and Tenley, and….), Pfeiffer’s, 17th St Hardware – I love hardware stores. I love the staff whoa actually KNOW what they sell, how it works, what you need, and in general, how to keep your old house happy.

    I hate Home Depot. I love a good hardware store.

  • I like the Capital Locksmith (a hardware store, too) right by the Petworth Metro. It’s definitely an old-fashioned setup, but often I find it’s just as efficient: you tell them what you need and they go back and find it.

    Countering the trend of stores closing is the Ace Hardware in Tenleytown. They opened up a couple of years ago in the basement of the old Sears, and it seems like they’ve been doing well.

  • They can absolutely survive, by providing a clear alternative in terms of convenience and service. I used to go to Candey’s on 18th St, because it was across the street from my office, but I’m not sure it’s there any more (It was on the same block as Sesto Senso and the 18th St Lounge, which may be a little too trendy for a hardware store).

    I don’t get there very often, but Fragers on Capitol Hill has got to be the king of city hardware stores.

  • just discovered Ginkgo Gardens (garden store i.e. plants) on capital hill this weekend – it is totally awesome, really loving not buying my plants from home depot this year. highly recommend it.

  • “Cooper was only accessible from the 14th street buses. It was a little far from the metro. ”

    Isn’t the point of a neighborhood hardware store… that it’s in your neighborhood? If you’re going to metro there are a hell of a lot better places than Coopers ever was. I mean, it wasn’t awful, but as has been noted they weren’t open on Sundays and their inventory was basic at best. I went there to buy a drill bit and some screws a few times I think.

    Anyway I don’t think being metro accessible is really a requirement of a neighborhood hardware store. I think being open on the weekends and having a good inventory of commonly needed things is.

    I admit I go to home depot a lot, but I am buying tiles and 2x4s and 80lb bags of concrete and stuff on a regular basis. I’m not exactly the target customer of the neighborhood joint – if I need a picture hanger or some paint I’ll get it the next time I’m at depot anyway…

  • Does anyone know WHEN Bemmi’s hardware was in business? I’ve lived nearby for 6 years and never recall seeing it open for business. I didn’t know if they had weird hours or have been closed for years.

  • I think good neighborhood hardware stores will always have a niche. Why? Because no one at Home Depot knows much about anything, and despite their size, their selection is often really small. I think that the True Value on 17th St carries more variety of merchandise, targeted to their customers in the neighborhood, than you will ever find at Home Depot. Despite living in Petworth I’ll often go to True Value rather than Home Depot even though parking is a pain, just to avoid Home Depot headaches.

  • Isn’t there a hardware store right next to the Petworth metro stop? I’m sure there is, I bought paint there once.

  • The well managed ones can survive and thrive. Fragers is a great example. In addition to be a top notch local hardware store, they also have great gardening section with helpful and knowledgeable staff (actually, that’s true for the whole store), plus a great sister paint store on the block. If you ever run into plumbing difficulty they have knowledgeable staff who can walk you through even the most obscure problems in old houses. Try getting that at Home Depot.

    The only knock is that their key copying service is spotty. Even if it takes two or three trips to get it right, you’ll spend less time than a single trip to HD would take.

  • There are plenty of thriving small hardware stores around. They just need be GOOD and they’ll surivive just fine.

  • A new two-level Ace or True Value opened in the Vista condo building that also contains the new Busboys and Poets. Its selections were inviting and organized.

  • I’d like to add the Brookland hardware store on 12th street to the list of good neighborhood hardware stores.

  • I am insanely passionate about good local hardware stores and would easily pay double, and lop off a limb if needed, to avoid Home Depot. I mostly go to True Value on 17th & Corcoran – it is like walking into heaven – not being metaphorical either – angels sing and the clouds part and the exact size washer or screw you need rains instantly down upon you.

    You just bring in a little broken bit of some odd piece of something and hand it to one of the seven guys who are right there to help. They pull out a drawer or climb up a ladder or root around in the backroom treasure caves and find it, tuck it in a little paper bag and you are out before you would even cross the Home Depot parking lot.

    I could write an epic here, an ode, or opera to good hardware stores. I would be living beneath plastic sheets, my home crumbled to ruin, wayward plumbing geysering around me without True Value. I actually look forward to things breaking, for the pure joy of knowing that, unlike most of the rest of life, there is a clear and immediate solution. And their prices are no higher than Home Depot

  • Pfeiffer’s rules. Despite its small size they somehow have always had everything I’ve ever needed each time I have gone there. Great service and very knowledgeable. Sadly, the last time I was there they told me the owner was moving and would be selling and it is uncertain whether it will remain in its current form. I really hope it does and I recommend that folks patronize it as it is a really well-run business.

  • Fragers is a perfect example of how the smaller stores can survive: customer service. That alone is the reason I shop there. The workers are friendly, always available to help you find something, actually seem interested in answering your questions and are usually knowledgeable about what tool or supplies I need for my project. I wish more retailers would follow that model.

    The big box model of retail will eventually need to retrench and come around to a more customer-friendly approach to survive. The two main selling points of the big boxes had always been convenience and low price, neither of which seems to be in abundance at those places anymore.

  • Home Despot is the worst place on earth. But, they were almost beat by Cooper’s. I used to live like three doors down from them, and they were never, ever, open. The few things I was able to get from them were either faulty, broken, or seriously outdated. I bought a bunch of seeds from them once — they were all expired and none of them grew. But, more than anything, they were never open (ever), and even when they were, they didn’t have anything you wanted anyway.

    On the other hand, Pfeiffer’s freaking rules. Some of the best customer service this city has to offer (I wish that was saying something; sadly, it isn’t). They always have what I’m looking for, even when I don’t know what I’m looking for.

    Local hardware stores will continue to do well, as long as the staff are knowledgeable, helpful, and they are freaking open.

  • The RI Ave Home Depot is its own unique version of hell. Worst service of any store I ever have been in, period. I once witnessed an employee curse out a customer who dared to ask for some help. If I have to do Home Depot, it’s worth it to me to drive to a suburban location.

    But Pfeiffer’s was always great and hopefully will continue on with good ownership. I echo all the sentiments above — I will pay a premium price if I know someone there will hold my hand to buy the right tool/screw/part and make sure I understand what I’m doing, because usually I don’t and am half-assing some solution. People who know what I’m trying to do and aren’t afraid to tell me to go home and measure again before I screw up everything are great. And at a neighborhood store, you literally can walk home, measure again, and be back in 10 minutes.

    As for Cooper’s, I used to live equidistant from Cooper’s and Pfeiffer’s. I went to Cooper’s twice. The first time they cut keys for me, none of which worked. The second time I went first thing in the morning and no one was there 15 minutes after posted business hours had begun, so I had to bail out and head to Pfeiffer’s.

    Kudos also to Logan Hardware and Strosnider’s and True Value in Tenley, though they aren’t my neighborhood stores.

  • Pfeiffer’s is wonderful. Logan is nice but still too far for me.

    Pfeiffer’s is the place where they throw the “how to” advice in for free when you buy whatever you need. It’s a great place with knowledgeable people. I can’t recommend that place enough.

  • @DCDireWolf – The hardware store right by the Petworth Metro is Capital Hardware, mentioned by Andrew above. It’s great for simple stuff that doesn’t go stale or expire – tools, some cleaning supplies, getting keys made, hardware – and the owner is a notary public, too. They are less good for anything that goes out of date, like flower/plant seeds that have been on the shelves for years. They’re friendly and worth supporting but their hours can be sporadic. They’re not open much after work, and not at all on Sundays (and I’m not even sure they’re consistently open on Saturday).

  • Oops. Capital Locksmith.

  • I love having a blog where people are equally passionate about neighborhood hardware stores and neighborhood dive bars.

  • What Victoriam said, but I’d write my epic to Brookland Hardware. Walk in and dare them not to have a solution for you! If you have an old house, they have the hardware for you. They will order anything. They will custom build screens and storm windows. They are also just fun guys and gals and it’s a trip to shop there, if a tad claustrophobic. I’ve also shopped Pfeiffers, Fragers, Logan Hardware…

    I also lived a block from Bemmi and in all the years, nope, they were never open. So I think they might be throwing off the hardware store viability quotient. Lots of others seem to be doing quite well.

  • @DCDireWolf – Yes, there is a hardware store right by the Petworth metro stop – I went in there once to get keys made, got home, and the keys didn’t work. So I never went back…so now I’m staying loyal to True Value in Dupont. I’m also a big fan of Strosnider’s in Silver Spring.

  • @DrewLove – I moved in around the corner from Bemmi’s in 1998 and it was closed then. I recall seeing it closed years earlier.

    I’ve lived in all four quadrants in DC and I always end up in Fragers. Their staff actually helps you find stuff instead of hide when you walk in the door. And unlike Home Depot, they don’t operate a massive shoplifing/fencing ring.

  • (Pfeiffer is still my favorite)

    But remember, HD really depends on who you get. Not EVERY person is bad. I’ve had some good experiences there.

  • Sometimes I wish I had more home improvement projects going – I just don’t seem to get to hardware stores very often.

    But when I need something, I head to Pfeiffer’s and they either have it or can order it & have it in a few days. Or I’ll find it at the True Value on 17th St.

    I’ll go out of my way to go to Lowes rather than shop at Home Despot.

  • The place up at Kansas and Peabody, though more of a lumberyard type place, also has quite a bit of hardware stuff and everyone’s been helpful the few times I’ve been. I think they have very limited weekend hours. And I can’t remember the name. Hanahan & Gurlihy? Gallagher and McHurley? Something like that. Sorry, just can’t pull it up right now.

  • True story — an employee at the Rhode Island Home Depot once recommended we go to Fragers to get a part the Home Depot didn’t stock/this guy couldn’t find. That’s why Fragers and places like it will survive.

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