Hardware store in downtown Albion will close

Photos by Tom Rivers: Fred Miller moves a dolly at Family Hardware in Albion this morning. He has owned the store for the past 33 years at 58 North Main St.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 September 2019 at 3:54 pm

Fred Miller has owned the store for 33 years

ALBION – A downtown mainstay, Family Hardware, will soon be closing. Fred Miller has owned the store the past 33 years, and worked there for five years before buying it.

An ad posted on the Orleans Hub this morning informed the community the store was closing, with a 30 percent off sale next week. Miller will be selling the inventory, and then he expects there will be an auction to sell the shelves and fixtures.

The store was once a bustling place, with customers lined up before the doors opened at 8 a.m., Miller recalled today.

He once had 8 to 10 employees. On a typical day he would make 50 keys for customers.

Miller, 65, has been running the place mostly by himself in recent years. He is often joined by his dog, Max, a German Shepherd.

“It was a wonderful past,” Miller said today.

He was thankful for the 38 years in the business, for the chance to get to know many community members. His children grew up working in the store. Kevin is now 37 and Janet is 32. They are coming home next week to help their father with the going-out-business sale.

Fred Miller helps the driver from True Value Hardware unload a truck this morning, in what Miller expects will be the last hardware delivery for the store.

Miller said it is a challenge to succeed as a small business owner. He has watched many businesses come and go in downtown Albion. He felt the loss when Fischer’s Newsstand closed in August 2015. That business, like the hardware store, had been a fixture of the downtown for about a century.

Many of the Fischer’s customers would stop by the hardware store to grab a few items.

Miller ran for local elected office about a decade ago over concerns about taxes and the small business environment. He was first on the Albion Village Board and then was elected to the Orleans County Legislature. He is the lone Democrat on the Legislature, and he is well-liked by the Republicans. The party didn’t endorse any one to challenge him in the election.

“The people of this I’ve always loved,” Miller said. “That’s why I got into politics. But I’m not a politician. I’m a business owner.”

Miller said the store was given a boost through e-commerce, where local people could order from the Family Hardware website and then pick up the products at Miller’s store.

He has been wanting to retire anyway. He hasn’t been able to take vacations over the years with his wife Betty Sue.

Without employees to run the store, He has had to close Family Hardware early to make meetings as a county legislator.

This spring he had to close a few hours each day so he could get radiation treatments for prostate cancer. Miller said the treatments have been successful.

He had hoped the building would stay a hardware store, but that won’t be the case. Miller said someone has an option to buy the building.

Doug Bower stopped by the store today to pick up a water heater from Miller. Bower, a plumber, has been one of Miller’s most dedicated customers over the years.

Doug Bower, an Albion plumber, has been one of Miller’s most loyal customers. He stops by each morning around 7:30 for coffee, just before the doors open to the public. He is usually joined by Joe Baker and Richard Nenni, two other dedicated customers.

Bower said Miller kept the store going long after most others would have stopped.

“It’s hard to stay in business against the Home Depots and the Lowe’s,” Bower said.

Miller said the big box competition wasn’t the culprit in the store’s closing. Ultimately, he said there are far fewer do-it-yourselfers these days. Many local residents either hire out work around the house or neglect home improvement projects.

“People used to do more projects,” he said. “We used to have people lined up here at 8 in the morning. They knew how to do things with their hands. They could do projects – faucets, toilets, outlets, plumbing and electrical.”

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