Friday, January 27, 2012

"A day for the little guy" an Associated Press story


In the era of big boxes, a day for the little guy

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio (AP) — It began
quietly, as an email to 40 friends.
But when a steady stream of customers
began coming through the door before
the family-owned Chagrin Hardware
had even opened for the day on
Saturday, it was clear that it had turned
 into much more than that.
The idea started with Jim Black, a resident
of Chagrin Falls, a close-knit village in
Cleveland's eastern suburbs that is part
artist colony and part bedroom community.
Black posted the email to a group of his
friends. "Let's show our support for one 
of our local businesses," he wrote. "I 
challenge everyone to spend AT LEAST 
$20 at the hardware on the 21st."
Although his email referred to the idea of
a "Cash Mob" or the notion to "Occupy
CF Hardware," he really had no political
agenda. And it wasn't meant as a protest
against the big-box stores that have
created an ever-tightening circle around
the community.
It was just a way to thank Chagrin Hardware's owners for a beloved
shop that has been a fixture in the village since 1857.
"These are good people who needed our support," Black said. "It's just
that simple."
The store, overlooking meandering Riverside Park and the Chagrin River
in the middle of town, has been run by the Shutts family for the last 72
years. It passed from uncle to father to older brothers Rob and Kenny
and the three youngest, Steve, Susie and Jack, who run the store today.
Black's note was forwarded and forwarded and forwarded again. Calls
started coming in from folks out of state who wanted to make a
purchase over the phone.
And when the day came, so did the shoppers — one by one, with dogs
on leashes and children in tow, hour after hour until the hardware
was teeming with customers.
"This is small-town America," said resident Martine Scheuermann,
a bag of pet-safe ice melt in her arms and her Springer Spaniels
tapping their toes on the worn wooden floor at her feet. "This is
a special family business in a town where everybody knows you."
The store has seen its share of tough times. Road construction on
Main Street at the store's front door some years back crippled
business for a time. More recently, the weakened economy and
the big boxes have stolen away customers.
On this day, though, those storylines were forgotten.
By 10 a.m. the place was jammed. By 1:30 p.m., the credit card
machine was overloaded and had to be reset. "This is so cool,"
said Steve Shutts, a mix of joy, wonder and happy exhaustion
spread across his face. "I've seen people today I haven't seen
in years."
The line at the checkout stretched in two directions as people
with snow shovels and light bulbs and fireplace grates and
vintage movie posters and horse shoe caulk — yes, horse
shoe caulk — waited to pay.
Chad Schron, 38, came with his 8-year-old son Robert. "We
didn't have anything we had to get, but we found things we
had to get," he said. As he spoke, Robert clutched an Ohio
State desk lamp and two flying monkey toys to his chest.
"When I was a kid, my Mom would send me down here with
a note to let me buy BB's," Schron recalled. "Lots of kids did
that back then. The notes still are in a drawer over there," he
said as he pointed past the register to a wall of wooden
drawers containing everything from old springs to screws.
In the drawer still labeled "BBs" were stacks of crumpled
notes dating to the '50s, from mothers just like Schron's
When the final customer had finally left well after closing
time with her fuzzy dice and floodlights, Schwind and Steve
Shutts tallied the day's receipts. Shutts shook his head at
the wild and unexpected ride.
He wouldn't say how much the store made that day, but
was clearly pleased with the outcome.
"Thanks to Jimmy Black," he said. "Thanks to everyone.
Thanks to Chagrin Falls.
"What a place to live."

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