Longtime Latrobe hardware store to close as owner retires
Like many customers, Alex Cairns has mixed feelings about the impending closure of Petrosky’s Pro Hardware in Latrobe.
“I just wish them a happy retirement,” Cairns, of Ligonier Township, said as he shopped the retirement/closing sale over the weekend. “That should be good for them. Then I’m sad because it’s just another part of history that won’t be around anymore.”
The hardware store has been a familiar part of Latrobe for more than 70 years. It has been operated by the Markiewicz family since 1954, when brothers Eugene and Francis bought the business from Peter Petrosky. Now Eugene’s son, Pat, 71, after the recent death of his older brother and business partner, Jack, is phasing out the business with a liquidation sale as he looks forward to spending more time with wife, Eva, three children and three grandchildren.
“I didn’t try to find a buyer, the way business is going with Lowe’s and Home Depot,” Pat Markiewicz said. “Then you’ve got people buying stuff online. All of it cuts into the brick-and-mortar stores.”
He said the store stopped stocking garden seeds because few people were buying them.
But, for many, Petrosky’s has been a reliable place for hard-to-find items and personal service.
Cairns was looking for replacement ceiling tiles and electrical equipment but found plenty of other items that caught his attention.
“If there’s something odd, they usually tend to have it here,” he said as he shopped Saturday. “It’s the old-school hardware store. You don’t see too many places like this anymore.”
The decline of mom-and-pop hardware stores hasn’t been as steep as believed, according to an industry group based in Indianapolis.
About 1,000 of the 19,850 independent U.S. hardware stores that remained open in 2017 will close by 2022, according to an annual market report from Hardware Retailing, a magazine published by the North American Retail Hardware Association. The organization reported a loss of 70 independent hardware stores nationwide from 2012-17.
Lycippus Hardware & Supply in Mt. Pleasant Township closed in 2017.
“Our analysis suggests that contributing factors to the decline in store counts are consolidation, lack of succession planning and greater competition in the industry,” said Melanie Moul, features editor for Hardware Retailing.
Markiewicz acknowledged Petrosky’s has gained a reputation for stocking items that are difficult to find in many other stores. “We never did have any big sellers. It was just anything and everything,” he said.
He recalled a customer from Chicago who was pleased to find a manual-powered push mower at Petrosky’s.
At the beginning of the liquidation sale last week, Markiewicz said the store was jam-packed with an estimated 25,000 items or more, ranging from adze handles to children’s wooden sleds.
In 1971, the family relocated the store from 121 Depot St., part of an area that was being cleared for construction of the town’s post office, to a former Acme supermarket at 602 Alexandria St.
At that time, Markiewicz said, the center aisle was 6 feet wide and aisles extending to either side were 4 feet wide. Then, as inventory expanded, the aisles grew narrower and pegboard additions doubled the shelving height to 8 feet.
Though many prices already are reduced up to 50 percent, “It will probably take us until the middle of June to get it all out,” he said of the extensive inventory.
According to a 1998 letter written by Peter Petrosky’s daughter, Dolores Petrosky Hanna, her family’s Depot Street enterprises began in 1921 when her grandfather, William, opened The Motor Service Co., in the 300 block, where her father and her uncle repaired cars and sold automobile accessories. Selling seeds to farmers and gardeners was a sideline.
Peter Petrosky opened his hardware and seed store in the 100 block of Depot Street in the late 1930s, and the business thrived during World War II, when area residents cultivated “victory gardens,” Hanna wrote.
Markiewicz said he’ll miss interacting with customers once he closes. “We provided good customer service,” he said. “We repaired just about everything we sold.”
New Alexandria do-it-yourselfers Kevin and JoAnn Burkholder visited Petrosky’s over the weekend to shop for paint, kitchen items and car products.
Kevin recalled coming to the store to get plumbing products and other items for his father’s former construction business.
“Everything you can think of is in here,” he said.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .