by Melissa Lau
On Sept. 4, La Verne Hardware posted huge signs in its windows made of brown paper with bright orange writing across, reading “store closing.”
Merritt Habblett, who has worked there for two years and has been manager for about five months, explained that the store just does not receive enough business.
“We’re not getting enough people in here spending money,” Habblett said.
He said that the decrease in customers began years ago, when big chain companies such as Orchard Supply and Hardware and Home Depot started popping up in the area.
He said people would buy things over there and bring their problems, such as how to use the products they bought to La Verne Hardware.
He said that the local store is different from the chain stores because it emphasizes customer service. People also go to La Verne Hardware because it still carries the older products that older houses in that area may need, which the newer chain stores do not stock.
Jim Marston, owner, feels the same.
He said his store’s closing is symbolic of new, large corporations set out to destroy small businesses.
“Dozens of other giants have broken the back of the small business that built this country,” he said. “The average person that supports these large, corporate megastores has no idea they are destroying our entire way of human life.”
“Wake up young America,” Marston said. “It’s only a matter of time ’till your greed, for a better price, which is not always the case, will cost you your job and push us into a third-world status,” he said, adding that in fact the “Hardware business was good to me for a lot of years.”
Some University of La Verne students and faculty say they will miss the local hardware store. Students go in to buy things like light bulbs, and art classes even go there to buy wire for projects.
Assistant professor of art, Keith Lord, often sends his students there. The art classes sometimes use “less traditional” materials such as wire, wood and clay.
“It’s certainly quite handy for me, quite convenient for my sculpture classes,” he said. “I think there’s something about a small town hardware store. It shapes the community, the downtown area.”
Lord also visited the store to get keys made and to find small tools for his classes.
“I think it’s a loss to have it closing,” he said.
The store also has many local accounts with the La Verne Florist, Heroes, La Verne Auto and Warehouse Pizza. Even with local accounts, not enough money comes into the store, Marston said.
“It takes an average sale of $12 per customer to keep the help you need and the doors open,” Marston said. “We are averaging five dollars.”
The original location of the store is just left of the main entrance of the store now.
Formerly owned by Dick and Betty Flora, Marston bought the store when Flora was ill with cancer.
“I saved it, actually, from closing. When K-mart came to town, it pretty much put them under,” Marston said.
Over the years, he and his wife, Marjorie, have worked at the store.
All three of Marston’s sons have also worked in the store. Jim Marston, Jr. started working there when he was 9-years old.
In addition to his sons, Marston said he has given over 100 people their first jobs.
“Many of them have done well,” he said.
Including Habblett, the store currently has two employees. The other is Aaron Johnson, a ULV student.
“He is one of the nicest kids I ever had,” said Marston.
This store was one of four once owned by Marston, the others are Alosta Hardware, Glendora Hardware and Charter Oak Hardware. Alosta and Glendora Hardware are still in operation but, Glendora Hardware is now a Chili’s restaurant.
Before it was transformed into La Verne Hardware, the building was the original location of the La Verne Post Office.
Workers are still unsure as to when the store will actually close.
It is currently having a sale to get rid of its inventory.
The sale began on Sept. 16, however, an ending date has not yet been chosen.
All items will be marked as 20 percent to 50 percent off for cash purchases only.
Purchases made with credit cards items will receive a smaller discount. The sale excludes wagons and trikes. Anything not sold will be moved to Charter Oak Ace Hardware in Covina.
Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.