Historic, yes, but no museum

Rogerson’s Hardware, in business since early 1830s, carves out new niche in Hudson

HUDSON–It’s hard to deny that in recent years the cupboard was getting bare at Rogerson’s, the 180-year-old Warren Street hardware store. The establishment that once provided tools, raw materials, and gardening and logging supplies to generations of home owners and local businesses had started to send people in need of basic hardware items away empty handed.

The store was quiet, and owner/proprietor Dennis McEvoy, who also holds a law degree from Brooklyn Law School, was spending more and more time on his legal practice, which he occasionally runs from the back of the store. When he has to make a court appearance, he closes the store.

 

Neighbors worried that Mr. McEvoy might sell the building and close up shop, an event that would represent a serious loss to the City of Hudson. Although management and ownership has changed over the years, the store has been at the same location, 615 Warren, for close to two centuries. No other business in Hudson can claim such longevity.

So fans of the store were quick to notice last fall when Rogerson’s began to radiate a new vitality. The front windows suddenly sported a whole new array of vintage hardware, formerly empty shelves started to fill up again and shoppers began to come in more often. The store now opens every day.

When asked about the change, Mr. McEvoy said he has joined forces with partner Bart Slutsky, a collector of vintage hardware who has 40 years of experience in the hardware wholesale and trading business and who now wants to offer his products directly to the public. After decades of collecting odd lots of unused hardware from mom and pop stores around the Northeast, Mr. Slutsky saw the need to connect with clients as excited as he is by what he has to offer.

“I found this place because of a snowstorm,” said Mr. Slutsky as he helped customers on a recent Saturday. In the winter of 2011 while returning from a trip up to northern Vermont where he had traveled to pick up a collection, a flat tire in a blizzard stranded him in Columbia County. The next day, after getting his tire fixed in Hudson, he found Rogerson’s, where he met Mr. McEvoy. He ended up buying most of the store’s vintage hardware and a year or so later had the idea of going into business with Mr. McEvoy. Rogerson’s offered the sales and storage space he needed.

“Hudson is a new market for me,” said Mr. Slutsky, a former Westchester County resident who now lives here and loves it. He is particularly interested in helping homeowners restore and repair older houses.

Mr. Slutsky brings to Rogerson’s a substantial inventory of quality lock sets, hinges, door knobs, door and cabinet hardware, and other architectural fittings essential to those who are restoring older houses. Because he bought his stock at deep discount he is able to pass on significant savings on items not available elsewhere.

Solid brass hinges, some of which are designed with ball bearings so that they can stand up to the kind of heavy traffic that a store on Warren Street gets, are durable, historically correct, and may cost less than a reproduction. His customers can save up to 40% below list price on items that give new meaning to the phrase “They sure don’t make things like they used to.”

“You can fix a lock for $15 to $25. It makes economic sense when it would cost over $100 to replace it,” said Mr. Slutsky, who routinely fixes locks and has a large inventory of replacement parts. If a part is needed but not found in the store, Mr. Shitsky will often fabricate it in the shop upstairs.

While Mr. Slutsky specializes in vintage hardware Mr. McEvoy handles the contemporary stock and tries to offer as many American-made products as possible. Both help customers find whatever they need. Replacement hammer, ax, sledgehammer and shovel handles stand in a rack right behind the cash register.

The hardware business, which used to cater to industry and consumers alike, has changed along with the surrounding business community. Hudson was once a serious manufacturing center, with local heavy industries that depended on local hardware stores for tools, building materials and machine parts.

At one time two other hardware stores within two blocks of Rogerson’s also had booming businesses that included wholesaling to each other. These days hardware stores like Rogerson’s continue to serve consumer and business clients but must compete with big box stores. The chain stores stock the quickest moving items, while Rogerson’s fills other needs.

Mr. Slutsky’s appreciation of history evident in his love of old hardware is mirrored in Mr. McEvoy’s reverence for the history of the store his family has run for generations. His father’s handwriting appears on sales slips from the 1960s still filed in the basement. Graffiti on beams in the basement and storeroom walls of upper floors remain, a record of generations of clerks many of whom are still in town. Letters from Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover, and Governors Averill Harriman and Hugh Carey received at the time of the store’s 100th and 150th anniversaries decorate the office wall. Steps in the basement are carved directly into the bedrock. Supplies are stored in boxes that once arrived at the store housing shipments of horseshoes and in old nail barrels. An ancient furnace that burned coal in the past still heats the building but is now retooled to use natural gas.

The sign over the door says, “Rogerson’s: Everything in Hardware,” but not everything on display is for sale. If it’s the last antique folding, one-foot ruler that you want, sorry, you’ll have to buy the building and all its contents to get it, said Mr. McEvoy.

The last oversized galvanized bucket bearing the label Iron Horse made in Rochester, NY, that may date back to the 1920s is not for sale either. The fact that the store is something of a museum is part of its charm.

“Things like mouse traps, replacement plugs and light bulbs, you’ve got to have,” said Mr. Slutsky. Drill chuck keys and Allen-head cap screws they have in spades; rope by the yard, rope and cable clips, a line of American made Case pocket knives, and even an old fashioned ice saw are also on offer. A few years ago, one customer was amazed to find a shoulder bolt he needed to fix a reclining chair when he couldn’t find one anywhere else. But the Lionel trains that many older male customers recall with longing are gone. The only one that remains is Mr. McEvoy’s own train that he sets up every Christmas in the window.

A website that will market the vintage stock to a larger public is in the planning stage as the two men fill in the gaps in the store’s traditional hardware offerings.

“It seems to be working for both of us, said Mr. Slutsky. “The reception has been great.”

 

 

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