Signs reading “retirement” blanketed the windows at Myers Park Hardware on Monday, and a lone employee, watering the plants outside, turned away customers looking for light bulbs or flowers or new keys.
The store, a Charlotte institution for more than 60 years, is closing, leaving longtime shoppers lamenting – and wondering what will become of one of the city's most desirable retail sites.
“It's just such a landmark,” said Peggy Horne, 52, of SouthPark, who has been shopping there more than 20 years. “We're all just shocked and so sad to no longer have a neighborhood hardware store.”
Myers Park Hardware will reopen Wednesday for its final sale, when everything, including the shelves, will be up for grabs until the store closes for good in early November, said Hugh Huntington, 66, who owns it with his sister, Nancy Robinson.
It's unclear what will become of the 3/4-acre site at Providence and Queens roads, which is valued at more than $1million, tax records show. Huntington and Robinson and their four daughters plan to evaluate offers and either sell or lease the property, Huntington said.
Myers Park Hardware opened in 1947 on land that had been part of Huntington's grandmother's farm, he said. His father, Jimmy, ran the shop until he died in 1970. Then an uncle and Huntington's mother, Josephine, took over.
Robinson, 64, has managed the store some 20 years. Huntington, a management consultant, stepped in to help when the family decided to close the shop a few weeks ago.
Robinson is ready to retire, and the store has faced increasing competition from big-box retailers, Huntington said. As a result, Myers Park Hardware's numbers have been flat for a while, he said.
“Sometimes, it's just the time to do things,” he said.
The store's owners plan to keep the lawnmower shop open for repairs through October, and they are considering keeping the garden shop open until they decide what to do with the site, Huntington said.
Customers on Monday were surprised to hear the news.
“It's very sad,” said Anna McMahan, 32, who was looking for flowers Monday. “It's part of Charlotte's history – and there it goes.”
Sylvanus Peters has worked at Myers Park Hardware six years. It was his first job when he moved to the U.S. from Liberia, he said. “I love it here. Everybody here is like a family to me.”
Myers Park Hardware is one of the last independent hardware shops in Charlotte. Across the country, there are “quite a bit fewer” independent stores today than a decade ago, partly because of larger retailers, said Nick McCoy, a home-improvement analyst with TNS Retail Forward of Columbus, Ohio.
Home Depot and Lowe's, for instance, have nearly 35 percent of the home improvement retail market, the firm says.
“It's particularly difficult in this economy,” McCoy said. “Consumers are really cutting back. Even the Lowe's and Home Depots of the world are struggling to keep shoppers coming through the doors.”
There's no rush to find a tenant or developer, Huntington said. He and Robinson have been getting offers on the property for years – and recently, calls from as far away as Missouri – but developers should consider issues such as parking and zoning, he said.
Huntington said he could see a bank or high-end retailer going up there. He said the family would rather keep the land, though that depends on the offers they receive.
The strong family dynamic “makes us really weird in the business community” – but it's what has kept Myers Park Hardware going all these years, Huntington said.
“This place never lost its character,” he said.