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321 posts
Oct 01, 2011
1:50 PM
Once upon a time there was a small store on Brandt Pike that sold hammers and wrenches, bolts and nails, hinges and fasteners, floodlights and electrical cables, plant food and seed. It was the kind of place where one went to get the kind of stuff one needed to repair a house or establish and maintain a garden.

Gem City Hardware was where you went if you needed a couple of wire connectors or some toggle bolts or a flashlight. They had shovels and power tools, too; and specialized paints for application to outdoor concrete. All these things had their own aroma. To this day anyone who entered Gem City Hardware as a kid (or for that matter as an adult) can close his eyes and come close to actually smelling the aromas of the merchandise. If one lingers in the attic of one's memories long enough, the scent of Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco will waft through one's reverie at intervals.

It was the kind of place where if you went there more than once you were a friend and neighbor as well as a valued customer. They never had to advertise an idiotic slogan about "When you're here, you're family". Actions and attitude spoke louder and more eloquently than words ever could.

The people working at Gem City were not a bunch of kids or desperate people who had applied at some "job fair"; they were folks from families who had maintained their own domiciles for generations and were well-versed and conversant in the details of the handyman and the gardener. If you had a rotten place in your soffit or a hornet's nest in your eaves; if your lawn was turning brown or your fuses kept blowing; or if you had any of a plethora of other conditions you needed to remedy then chances were that whoever you spoke with had either had the same situation or knew someone who had. In any case, the staff of Gem City Hardware were a walking set of encyclopediae on all things domestic.

They were also long-time local residents, and more than hardware was often discussed during a visit. One might go there for a bag of peat moss and run into a local politician who had come for some stakes for his tomato plants, and a dicussion of some issue might ensue. Once my dad took me along to get some rock salt for the water softener, and we left half an hour later after a discussion about the fishing someplace in Kentucky where we planned to vacation.

Gem City Hardware closed a few years ago, I'm told. Nowadays if you need a specialized bolt, you'll be directed to "aisle four, that's where we have the bolts and screws" by some liberal-arts major who couldn't find a job that required his skills in analyzing the relationship between Chaucer and Philip Roth and who wouldn't know a nail from a rivet and whose only experience in home maintenance is calling a handyman service for his parents (with whom he still lives at 27 years old). Yet this, inexplicably, is the competition that drove Gem City out of business.

Perhaps this economy, bad as it is, holds a silver lining. Perhaps people will stop calling in a professional every time they get a wet basement and start doing things themselves again.

Maybe, just maybe in time a few of these folks will get the idea of opening a store where do-it-yourselfers can come not only for supplies but for good advice on more than just home repair and gardening.

For now, however, Gem City Hardware (and other businesses like it) are just a fond memory for the most part, although here and there you will find - it takes some searching - a beleagured survivor here and there. You cannot teach a bunch of kids from a book what a lifetime of experience can provide. Gem City Hardware was so much more than just a place to get a hinge or some putty.
185 posts
Oct 02, 2011
6:48 PM
Allen, thank you for sharing this memory.
3 posts
Jan 23, 2013
1:33 PM
I knew exactly which hardware store you were talking about, as soon as I read the post title! My dad LOVED Gem City Hardware, he went there often. Thanks for posting this, Allen.
5 posts
Feb 21, 2013
8:16 AM
Any one remember Tappers Hardware,corner of Leo & Troy St,in Old N. Dayton?
Mike C
75 posts
Nov 09, 2013
6:08 PM
I remember Gem City Hardware. How about Miami Hardware and Appliances there on Salem Ave by Philadelphia ( Good Sam Hospital)? That place had everything under the sun.
2 posts
May 11, 2014
5:08 PM
I remember the one at Troy & Leo Street (vaguely). I grew up on Mack Avenue in the house right behind the parking lot of St.Stephen's church. We moved into the house in March 1977 and that Hardware store building was torn down shortly thereafter and a 7-11 was built.
18 posts
Aug 24, 2014
5:24 PM
I worked there in high school back around 1974. I remember Willie and Bobby Evans as well as Gene. I learned so much working there. Good people. Sad to hear they have closed.
37 posts
Aug 24, 2014
6:07 PM
dave 58 and others, for those of you who knew Willie, Linda and the others, it is sad to let you know that Willie passed away approx. 41/2 years ago. His widow, Linda did close the store, after his death. You're right about this particular store, it was run by wholesome, honest and knowledgeable folks that I am proud to call my friends. I am a childhood friend of Linda Evans and have been a family friend of theirs for 55 years. I will show Linda this post when she visits me. Thank you for your generous and kind words about these wonderful people.
Charlie Bill
2 posts
Oct 12, 2014
6:13 AM
I worked at Graeff Hardware, corner of Wayne and Clocer Sts. while I was in high school. Carl, Minnie, and their son, Bob Graeff, owned the business. I was one of their delivery truck drivers and knew just about every street ai Dayton and the surrounding area. George McNees, Walter Lang, Bill Freed, Emma Frazier, and Hal "Chubby" Sinnet were employees. Talk about a "family" business. I learned more about family values from all of them than any other source. Sadly, they have all passed on. What a great time and place for a high school kid to work.
joey m
256 posts
Oct 13, 2014
9:20 AM
CharlieBill I think a friend of mine named Jimmy Stetson worked and wondered if you knew him.

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