Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Chase Hardware, whose iconic big hammer out front has greeted north Fourth Street drivers for decades, is closing its doors later this month and faithful patrons say taking with it a special brand of customer service.
Owner Richard Alberti, who turns 65 this year, said the catalyst for the closing is his retirement, but flat sales over the past seven years made the decision easier. The recession, big-box hardware stores and the Internet have slowly siphoned away business, he said.
“When the recession hit, sales numbers dropped,” he said. “We never really came back.”
Alberti’s parents bought the store in 1978 from the Chase family, which founded the business in 1954. Alberti was in his late 20s and still living in New York City when his father, Joseph, asked him to make a move to Albuquerque so he could manage the store that sits at 6740 Fourth NW. He took over ownership in 1984 and said he’s tried to maintain that “old-fashioned” approach to customer service.
Everyone is greeted when they walk through the door and offered assistance. Alberti’s five full-time and two part-time employees are extremely knowledgeable in all things hardware and two have worked there for 26 years. Shoppers can still buy single nuts, bolts and screws, and rope is sold by the foot.
Devoted customer Leonard Caldwell began shopping at the store when it was still owned by the Chase family. Once upon a time, he said, the store sold lumber, which it purchased from Caldwell’s father. He said the store stocks products he can’t find anywhere else, but offers something much more valuable: good customer service.
“You walk in and they ask you what you need and then they get it for you,” he said. “You don’t see that anymore. It’s like when they used to put gas in your car for you. It’s still that kind of service here.”
Alberti said he started making plans a few years ago to sell the business, and hoped to find someone who would come in and keep it as a hardware store, but wasn’t able to find that type of buyer. He said O’Reilly Autoparts has purchased the property, which is within the Village of Los Ranchos limits.
Los Ranchos Mayor Larry Abraham is among the store’s loyal customers and said the village is losing more than just a business.
“Obviously, I’m extremely saddened to see such an iconic business in the village close,” he said. “They employ people there who understand their inventory… . It’s a personalized customer service you just can’t find anywhere else.”
Abraham said the village is currently redeveloping Fourth Street from Schulte Road to Pueblo Solano Road to make it more attractive and hopefully to boost local business. The village will install sidewalks, crosswalks, landscaping and more lighting.
Chase Hardware was a favorite not only of residents, but also of business owners.
German Motorwerke owner Rick Brack, whose automotive shop is just down the road, said he’s been buying supplies from Chase for 33 years.
“They offer a great selection,” he said. “Now, we’ll probably need to go to seven different places to get what we need. And then you go to those big places and you have to hunt somebody down to help you who is probably already helping two other people.”
The store’s last normal day of operation will be Wednesday. After that, Alberti will begin liquidating his stock, closing up for good once it’s all gone.
But Caldwell hasn’t quite yet accepted the idea that his lifelong hardware store is closing.
“My son said they were closing,” he said. “And I said, ‘No. They can’t do that. Not until I die.'”