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DeVore Hardware a step back in time

| Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010

The safe in the corner of the office -- engraved with the name of then-owner Ben DeVore -- has been there since The Great Depression.

At the time, DeVore Hardware had owned what is now two storefronts in the 400 block of West Main Street in Monongahela and consolidated into one. The safe was rolled over into the current store and the office was built around the safe.

The office is cramped, owner Don DeVore admits.

"But I don't spend much time in the office," he said. "I spend most of my time on the floor."

DeVore "first started appearing here" when he was just 5 and was waiting on customers by the time he was 8.

"I've been here ever since," said DeVore, who just turned 55. "Every day I wake up, I can't wait to do it. It's one of those jobs that's in your blood."

The store has also been in the family for generations. DeVore Hardware was started by W.J. DeVore, Don's great-great grandfather, in 1903. The store was originally located at Second and Main streets.

The city actually had five hardware stores at the time, and W.J. DeVore started the hardware store as an investment. His son, H.C. DeVore, ran the business on a daily basis.

DeVore Hardware moved to its current location at 437 West Main St. in 1906. Benjamin DeVore bought the store from his father in 1931. George DeVore took over the business in 1953. He had begun working at the store by the time he was 10 and remained involved with the store -- except for stints in the service during World War II and the Korean War -- until his death earlier this year.

"In a family organization, how many times do you get to work with your dad• Not many. I was very fortunate to have him," Don DeVore said.

George DeVore gave the company to his two sons, Don and William, as well as his daughter, Nancy Jane, in the mid-1990s. Don DeVore runs the daily operations.

DeVore seems to know everyone by name as they enter the store. That is because the store and the family have been part of the community for so many years -- and continue to be.

The hardware store is unique in its service, DeVore said, adding that no two customers are alike.

There is a lot of activity in the store and DeVore enjoys helping customers assess their needs and finding them the proper product in just the right size, whether it is for a fuel filter or a water heater, or to find the right shade of paint, for example.

"It's fun because you get involved in their needs," DeVore said.

The store has an enviable inventory. The secret is anticipating customers' needs, and buying early in order to turn over those savings to the customers.

On-line purchasing allows DeVore to find the best prices - such as from out-of-sate suppliers.

"The hardware store is like a dinosaur because it takes a lot of money to start up," DeVore said. "Your inventory sits a long time and does not turn over to cash very quickly. There are a lot of seasonable products.

"You're not going to sell snow shovels in July and should not sell lawn mowers in January."

DeVore said name recognition has helped the store to flourish for decades.

"Our name goes along with the quality and then is a fair price that the customer can afford," DeVore said.

DeVore Hardware is one of those businesses that is truly recognizable from the outside and the inside.The countertop is from the 1930s and the store has a familiar wood floor. Bay windows outside the store give a sample of some of the products to be found inside.

Stepping into DeVore's hardware is like stepping back in time.To the left as customers enter is a familiar, long counter. Small brown boxes neatly stored on the shelves above the counter contain various screws, nuts and bolts.

On the counter is a scale that has been in use since 1936. Above the large paint department on the opposite side of the store are shovels and rakes hanging on the wall.

There are fan belts hanging neatly on the back wall of the store. There's a key cutting center in the midst of piping and plumbing. And there are pots and pans, coffee makers, chains and fans.

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