Growing up, when my dad needed something from the hardware store, we would probably go up to the old Cleverly’s Hardware on Mahoning Avenue and N. Hazelwood. I remember it as an old, wood-floored store with a patina of dust on everything. You just had to tell one of the guys, usually Mr. Cleverly, what you needed and he would take you to it and weigh out what you needed if it was nails or nuts and bolts or find the right amp fuse for the one that had blown at home (remember fuse boxes?). I think we shopped there because we lived next door to one of the Cleverly’s until he was in ill health and sold the house.
The premier place to go for hardware around Youngstown was Stambaugh-Thompson’s. Stambaugh’s started out at 114 West Federal Street in 1846. The store became Stambaugh-Thompson’s in 1887. They had a couple major fires at this location including one in 1904 that set off ammunition on the third floor.
Stambaugh’s led the way in opening a number of stores, including ones on the south side in the plaza on Youngstown-Poland road, the west side on Mahoning Avenue, one in the Uptown area as well as other stores. In more recent years, they opened a large store at South Avenue and Route 224 in Boardman. One of the things that seemed to set Stambaugh-Thompson’s apart from the old-fashioned stores like the one my dad always shopped at when we were young was that they were big, well-lit, and had a much larger selection of items in clearly marked departments. My wife remembers going to the store on Youngstown-Poland Road and that it had a main floor and basement levels.
What fueled the growth of these stores was this expansion into the suburbs, and the fact of so many people who had grown up in the Depression years “do-it-yourself-ing.” My father-in-law and his brothers built his garage, and then used the same plan to build ones for each other. You needed a new bathroom? Many plumbed them and did the work themselves. A new addition? Maybe you got a contractor for some work and then did the finish work yourself. All of this meant lots of trips to the hardware store.
My last trip to Stambaugh-Thompson’s was probably some time in the early 1990’s to help my mother-in-law buy a new lawn mower for her yard. We bought it from that shiny new store in Boardman. By then, I think they were just calling themselves Stambaugh’s. My mother-in-law was an amazing lady who took care of her home until she was 84 when she was diagnosed with cancer. She would arrange with friends to take the mower in each year to have the blades sharpened and the mower tuned up. We inherited that mower in 1998, an MTD self-propelled mower with a Briggs & Stratton engine and I literally used that mower until the wheels fell off a few years ago.
I loved going to that store–whether it was for power tools, gardening implements, paint, hardware, you name it. Even though I was living out of town in a big city, I thought the store got it just right. So I was saddened when I heard that the chain of twenty-six Stambaugh stores went bankrupt in 2000. I don’t know what the reasons were and could not find this in my online searches but I suspect it was the competition from big national chains like Lowe’s and Home Depot. At any rate it meant the disappearance of one more of those iconic names in Youngstown history.