When Doug, Bill and Rich Borchers began Park Hardware in 1978, nails were sold by the pound. They still have the old scale used to weigh nails, but now sell them by the box.
Entering the store at 617 Park Avenue in the Park & Seventh business district, you can see hundreds of items that builders, contractors, homeowners, gardeners and fix-it folks need and want.
"Some people thank us for being here, because it's easier to get in and out," Rich says, contrasting the store to big-box outlets.
Rich and Doug are on hand from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, to locate just the right plumbing or electrical part or the best tool to get a job done. For heavy items like mortar mix or bags of potting soil, customers can pull up to the rear door off East Seventh Street for easy loading.
In a city where half the residents are renters, new keys are an ongoing necessity. Locks are on hand in many styles as well. But with all these wares at the city's main east-west, north-south crossroads for more than 30 years, people are still discovering the hardware store and the district, which also has two pharmacies, a florist, a bakery, a computer store, beauty salons, eateries and a surgical supply store.
"People don't know they are there," Doug says.
Once they get out of their cars and walk around, visitors are often surprised to see what's available at Park & Seventh.
"To me, there is more diversity than there is down on Front Street," Doug says.
While adapting to modern needs of customers, the brothers are perfectly happy using this old rotary phone to do business. Ring them up at (908) 754-9137. And even though they have a digital cash register, they have kept their old electrical one that has a hand crank in case of power failures. It's down in the capacious basement, which has the same footprint as the store. The Borchers said the store was once an A&P supermarket and the lot across the street had houses that were demolished to make way for a new shopping center, now dominated by the popular Twin City supermarket.
The basement is also where the tiki torches will soon go as the brothers get ready to sell snow shovels and windshield scrapers. They have no computerized inventory management, but just go through everything in stock two or three times a year.
"We're still old school," Doug says.
On Friday, the brothers' father, Don, was visiting. He said one important feature of Park Hardware is the ability for customers to speak directly with Doug and Rich.
"People need advice," he said.
So next time you're at Park & Seventh, stop in and look around. The slide show below gives a glimpse of what is available and there is plenty more.
This is one of a projected series on the Park & Seventh business district.