By Sue Botos
Walking into Ingersoll Hardware in Rocky River is like stepping back to a time when people would not only pick up nuts, bolts and other thingamabobs at the local hardware store, but exchange news with their neighbors and seek home-care advice from clerks who knew them by name.
“If we had room for a checkerboard and a potbelly stove, we would set it up,” joked general manager Sheila Patterson recently. But that was the only levity during a recent interview with West Life, where Patterson announced that after more than 100 years of serving Rocky River, Ingersoll will close its doors in January. E&H Hardware Group, a locally owned enterprise based in Wooster, has purchased the store and will reopen it as an Ace Hardware store in the former Trading Times building on Detroit Road.
The Ingersoll store on Detroit Road in Westlake will also close.
Although Patterson said the store was doing fine businesswise and fulfilling a niche that big box stores don’t, owners Doug and Greg Yoder decided the time was right to sell. “Having grown up in Rocky River and having worked in the stores since I was a teenager, we tried to always make the customers the focus of our efforts at Ingersoll’s,” Doug Yoder said in a statement. “This is what has set us apart from larger competitors.” Yoder stated that as the needs of the market have changed, it was time for the business to “go through another evolution.”
Ingersoll has experienced a number of “evolutions” since it was founded as a feed store in the late 1800s by John Hoag, one of the area’s earliest businessmen. Legend has it that Henry Ford even shopped at the store but was refused credit.
In 1906, Hoag sold the store to F.S. Ingersoll, a contractor and manufacturer of carriage wheels. Ingersoll built a reputation for quality merchandise. His son Charles started a tractor business that drew customers from all over the state.
“I knew Charlie Ingersoll, and he was quite a character,” recalled Patterson, who has worked for the company since 1978.
The business was eventually purchased by Jim FitzGibbon, a descendent of Ingersoll, who sold the store to Nelson Yoder in 1973. Yoder moved the business to its present location at 19333 Detroit Road from the building now housing Charles Scott Salon. According to Patterson, Nelson Yoder’s sons Doug and Greg have been running the business since the early 1990’s.
“They have always been open if someone was interested in buying the store,” she commented, adding that neither brother is in the hardware business. Doug works for Fidelity Investments in Massachusetts, while Greg lives in Virginia.
“They raised their families and just felt it was time to move on,” stated Patterson.
“This has been quite hard,” said Patterson, who has worked at the store since 1978. She added that Ingersoll’s filled a niche larger stores did not. “We have a lot of odd pieces. There are a lot of old homes in Rocky River with steam heat, and we had the ability to find the parts,” she recalled.
Office manager Carol Sanders agreed. “(The big boxes) would rather sell you a faucet,” she said. “We’d rather sell you a part to fix your faucet.”
Although Patterson plans to retire, Ingersoll’s 22 full- and part-time employees will have first shot at jobs at the new Ace store.
According to the E & H Hardware Group, the new Ace store will continue to offer such services as custom-cut keys, screen repair and glass cutting. They also plan to carry Benjamin Moore paint and Craftsman tools.
This may be good news to customers like Andy Straka, who visited the store to purchase blades for cutting tools. He said he used to shop at the small hardware stores in Lakewood, which gradually closed. Now he comes to Ingersoll’s for the great customer service.
“You need a 10 or an 8?” called out “Super” Dave Murray, who has worked at the store for seven years and was searching for Straka’s blades. “I like everything about working here. The community is great,” said Murray. He added that the store repaired 4,000 to 5,000 screens and windows over the past year.
Cashier Nancy Patterson, a 20-year-veteran of the store joked with Straka on his way out. “He always gives me trouble,” she said with a laugh. She also noted that many seniors depend on Ingersoll’s not only for those hard to find “thingamabobs” but also for a kind word.
“Don’t forget one of these,” she said, handing an Avon catalogue to a visitor, another service not offered by the big boxes.