The early hardware store in Hillsdale was more of a general store for the male population. In the early days they were numerous, with a similar look. It seemed a requisite that the floors be worn hardwood, with nail bins lining the walls and the center of the floor, and a large scale in the middle, since nothing was prepackaged in those days. The older men would come in the back door and hang around the counter, smoking and joking. A man would have his favorite hardware store, although such business was often spread around.
When indoor plumbing, new furnaces and ductwork were needed, it was the hardware store that provided not only the supplies, but the workmen to do the job. Remodeling and upgrading your home became local news. One of the best examples is shown in the Dec. 13, 1909, Hillsdale Daily Standard Herald, in which new homes and specific remodels are listed for the previous year, including exactly what was done and the total cost. Keeping up with the neighbors and their improvements had literally become front-page news, and you depended on your favorite hardware store to help you reach that goal.
When the Gelzers opened their first store on North Howell, it followed the model of the other hardwares and was more a “general store.” Like other early hardware stores, it handled farm implements and later sold sporting goods. There was even a toy department, which was of particular interest to children at Christmas. Scotty Gelzer (Mrs. George) always joked that in the early days Gelzer Hardware also sold corsets. Well ... not exactly.
The Gelzer family opened the hardware bearing their name in the store that was originally Gorge Smith’s Hillsdale Hardware farther south on Howell Street.
In the middle of the block, across Howell Street from the County Courthouse, who could forget Karl Katzenmeyer, standing tall in the doorway of Katzenmeyer Hardware, always with a cigar in his mouth. This building also held a previous hardware store, that of McDermid and Gardner, then just Gardner. Henry Katzenmeyer, Karl’s father, bought out George Gardner and the hardware store continued until the 1970s, when Karl passed away. The building was then purchased by the Newtons, and the fabrics, notions and patterns in their store, Material Things, replaced the nuts, bolts and lawn mowers of the hardware.
Today the building houses the Blossom Shop.
Carol A. Lackey