WHEELING - For the past 17 months Annie Hawkins tried to make a go of it, but the True Value Hardware store on Washington Avenue is closing anyway.
Hawkins, who was born and raised in Wheeling, moved from Colorado with her husband, Ed, and five sons to purchase the business with the intention of keeping the longtime hardware store running. But as sales began to decline, Hawkins decided to put the business up for sale.
There were no takers.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Harold Black of Wheeling checks out items Wednesday during the Washington Avenue True Value Hardware store’s liquidation sale.
Consequently, a "going out of business sale" started Wednesday and is expected to last for three or four weeks - or however long it takes to sell the merchandise, fixtures and rental equipment.
Hawkins said she doesn't know if there is any one thing that made business decline. Perhaps it was the economy or the competition from big box stores, or that the couple didn't have a lot of experience running a retail store, she said.
"It's definitely an unfortunate event," she said while sitting in the break room in the back of the store.
Meanwhile on the main floor, several shoppers were taking advantage of the discounted merchandise - a bittersweet sight for Hawkins. She wished the store had been that full every other day of the year.
"We're very thankful and grateful to the community for coming out to the sale," Hawkins said. "My intention was never to close the doors."
She believes there were no interested buyers for the business because most small hardware stores are run by older people - not people in their 30s or 40s. The younger generation, such as herself, grew up during era that allowed their parents to spoil them, she said.
"It's hard work - no one wants to work a store 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.," she said. "We were here and worked it. ... But it's all water under the bridge now. People can buy one product or the whole store."
Hawkins purchased the store from the Meredith and Medovic families. She said the store's existing 14 employees tried hard to help educate Hawkins and her family in the hardware business.
"They tried to teach us and when they saw a problem, they never bailed," she said. "We're so humbled to have gotten to know know all of them."
Harold Black of Wheeling said he was sad to see the store in liquidation, noting he likely would start shopping at Lowe's when True Value closes its doors.
"It's a shame to see it go out of business," Black said.
Skip Stewart, owner Stewart Electric of Wheeling, was browsing some of the heavier equipment for sale.
"It's a shame to see it go away. It's a nice, local neighborhood store. I buy parts here for my job - I'm a contractor. Now I'll probably go to Lowe's - I hate to say that," Stewart said.
Hawkins said they hired a liquidation company to conduct the sale - DWS Retail Sales Inc. of Moffat, Colo.