Allen Norwood

In search of old-timey shops for desperate homeowners

Kathy Keziah at Piedmont Tool and Plumbing Supply
Kathy Keziah at Piedmont Tool and Plumbing Supply

Bob Southern discovered Piedmont Tool and Plumbing Supply a couple of weeks ago. It’s an amazing place, he said, a throwback shop with scads of hard-to-find parts and helpful folks behind the counter. It’s a gem, the sort of place that’s often invisible in today’s strip shopping center world, and the rest of us ought to know about it.

And he’s right.

You might have a similar story of your own. I sure do. We all ought to share, which I’ll get to at the bottom of this.

Southern lives in Beverly Woods near SouthPark, in a house built in the late 1960s. The diverter handle on his tub/shower finally gave out, as plumbing parts in older homes do.

He dropped by the big-box home store, but didn’t see anything resembling his diverter handle. He went to Ferguson, where the counter guy tried to help.

The clerk wanted to know what brand the handle was. Southern didn’t know. All he could offer was, “It’s old.”

The Ferguson clerk suggested that he try Piedmont, at 2633 Wilkinson Blvd. It’s not easy to find and they don’t have a big sign because they’re located in the basement of Dirty South custom automotive.

“It’s an old, old, old shop,” Southern said. “The young lady said, ‘Oh, you have a diverter handle.’ .. She knew exactly what I needed.”

The price was $14. The brand, it turned out, was American Standard.

The young lady’s name? Well, that’s tougher.

Southern didn’t get a name – but both clerks at the shop are women. They’re Kathy Keziah and Renee Smith. (One is in her 40s, the other in her 50s.)

Keziah was working on Tuesday. “We’ve been in business since 1946, in this same location,” she said. “We specialize in old faucet parts and things of that nature.”

Lots of new stuff can’t be repaired. Often, it’s easier and cheaper just to replace it, Keziah said. “The old style, you put a 10-cent washer in it and you’re good.”

A customer might call with questions about replacing an old faucet. “We ask, ‘How old?’ He says, ‘From the 1980s.’ We say, “Oh, that’s new for us.”

Keziah and Smith order all the parts, and stock them on the shelves. So it’s no wonder that one of them knew exactly what Southern needed when he walked in.

It’s an old shop, but you can find Piedmont online at www.piedmontplumbingsupply.com. There’s a Facebook page, too, Keziah said.

Do you have a favorite shop you turn to when nobody else seems able to help? Perhaps for plumbing parts, like Southern, or maybe for appliance parts and advice, when you’re at your wit’s end and the dirty clothes are piling up?

As I said, I sure do.

When my wife sold light fixtures and supplies at LightStyles in Cornelius, she and her colleagues would try their best to help customers. When they couldn’t, they’d recommend Desco, the electrical supply shop in Mooresville. Desco is a regional chain, with stores in Salisbury, Lexington, Albemarle and Statesville, too.

When my wife and I were searching for specialty outlet covers, we weren’t even sure what to call the gizmos. So we dropped by Desco near Exit 36.

The clerk asked a few questions, poked around a bit in the jammed shelves, then produced exactly what we needed. And the covers look terrific on the great room floor.

If you have a similar story, send it to me at the email address below. I’ll share the names of your favorite business and clerks. They’ll appreciate it – and so will desperate fellow readers.

homeinfo@charter.net

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