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The Tool Man

By Terry Hoover | Photography by Grant Baldwin

Posted: Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012

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D. E. Turner Sr., who built the hardware store on Mooresville’s N. Main Street in 1899 that still bears his name, would feel right at home if he dropped in today.

The store boasts the original wood floors, hand-built bins, counters and rolling wooden ladders used to reach the top shelves. The threshold and planks in front of the counter, a little battered and worn by 113 years of footsteps, are as sturdy as the day they were laid. The freight elevator still works and nails are still weighed in a dented tin scale and sold by the pound. Even the store’s first telephone remains, bearing the original number: 26.

Turner would also recognize the man behind the counter, Jack Moore, who turns 81 this month. Moore was just a Teenager when in 1946 Turner hired him to work in the store after school. This was back in the days when the store sold items like horse-drawn buggies (starting at about $85), Moore says, which arrived via the train that used to run through the center of town.

As a youngster, Moore’s job duties included chopping firewood for the store’s basement furnace. When he got old enough he drove the store’s delivery truck. After high school graduation Moore left for the Navy.

While stationed in Pennsylvania, Moore met his future wife, Barbara. Following his discharge from the military, Moore returned to Mooresville and his old job at the hardware store. After a few months he saved up enough money to return to Pennsylvania where he and Barbara married in 1956. He brought his newlywed bride back home and they started a family, which includes daughters Jackie, Nancy and Donna, and son, Danny.

Moore bought the hardware store in 1980 after Turner died. Barbara took over the bookkeeping, and son Danny joined him in 1988. Despite the fact that Moore has faced some health issues over the years, including diabetes and a quadruple bypass in 1997, he remains active and works at the store nearly everyday. And like Moore, the store is a Mooresville institution. Multiple generations have shopped there and continue to peruse the cluttered aisles.

Along with all the modern tools and equipment, the historic, two-story building is home to unique items such as hand-cranked ice cream maker, seasoned cast-iron cookware, lanterns, lamps and Radio Flyer wagons, bicycles and tricycles. There isn’t an item in the store Moore can’t identify, locate within seconds, and demonstrate its use.

That’s a particular comfort to the customers who often turn to the store as a last resort for obscure items or hard-to-find replacement parts, such as the old-fashioned glass doorknobs found in many of Mooresville’s historic homes.

“We tell ‘em try us first next time and save all that running around,” says Danny with a grin.

“There’s no other store like this,” adds Moore. “We’re not trying to compete with the big home improvement stores. They can use stockholders’ money to buy inventory. Every nut, bolt, screw and ax handle in my store comes out of my pocket. I can’t stock everything like the big stores do, but I try to have everything you need.”

This includes a longstanding sense of community, as many nearby residents often stop in for a cup of coffee and to share a few laughs with their friends and neighbors. other folks make it an annual stop on their vacation route.

“It’s hard for a Mom & Pop store to survive in today’s economy,” says Moore’s daughter, Donna Lane, of Hickory. “Dad is very proud of the store. He’s the reason people come back.”

Where: 111 N Main St., Apt. 115, Mooresville, NC 28115

Contact: 704-664-5145

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