Manchester Hardware in Easthampton here to stay, will consolidate space

  • Carol Perman, front, the owner of Manchester Hardware, and Casey Williamson, the manager, talk about the business in the store’s office.

  • Patrick Smith waits on a customer at Manchester Hardware. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Carol Perman, who sis the owner of Manchester Hardware, and sales associate Patrick Smith wait on a customer at Manchester Hardware. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Carol Perman, the owner of Manchester Hardware, stands in a three-floor storage barn that is attached to the store. She said such storage is unusual for a business this size. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Manchester Hardware in Easthampton, now housed in two buildings, is in the process of consolidating into one building. The building on the left is being sold. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Patio items are displayed at Manchester Hardware. This section of the store is a separate building and is being sold. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Carol Perman, who is the owner of Manchester Hardware, stands in a three-floor storage barn that is attached to the store, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. She said such storage is unusual for a business this size. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Clearance items are displayed on a table at Manchester Hardware. The store is in a process of consolidating its merchandise into one building. S TAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/1/2020 11:39:43 PM

The owner of Manchester Hardware, one of the city’s landmark businesses for more than a century, is looking to sell one of the two downtown buildings that make up its retail space in a bid to consolidate and make it easier to transfer the ownership of the store.

“I’m working on this plan to make it this great little hardware store,” Carol Perman said. “Because our customers love us.”

Perman, 66, said that she is looking to retire, but would like the store to continue on.

“I want Manchesters to be here forever,” Perman said.

And she said that selling the second Union Street building will make transferring ownership easier.

“They won’t have the expenses,” Perman said.

Casey Williamson, the store’s manager, said that the redesign will also be an improvement for customers.

“We’re really looking to make it a whole lot easier for our customers to shop with a smaller space,” Williamson said.

Perman said that the building that once housed Manchester’s rental business, which ceased operating in 2017, has been for sale for more than a year. However, it has not been listed, something she said will be done soon.

“We really just haven’t marketed it yet,” Perman said.

Although she said that there has been some interest in the building already, she said a moratorium on new gas hookups made it so a restaurant wasn’t feasible in the space.

Perman said that the space in the second building isn’t necessary and that the business is trying to consolidate its inventory and layout.

Perman said that Do it Best, the member-owner cooperative that Manchester Hardware is a part of, is coming up with a redesign for the store. To help inform this, a survey of the customers was done.

“It got a really good response,” said Perman. “Four hundred and eighty nine people.”

In terms of employment, Perman said that while some employees that leave might not be replaced as part of the redesign, there are no plans to eliminate jobs.

While Perman is looking to sell the neighboring building, she isn’t looking to give up the barn that’s attached to the store.

“The barn is my favorite part of the whole store,” she said. “The barn is wonderful.”

Between a spacious attic and a basement, it provides three levels of storage for the hardware store, much of which isn’t currently used.

The business that became Manchester Hardware was originally started in 1895 by G.L. Manchester to sell pipe fittings. Perman said that it soon became a hardware store and that it was first incorporated in 1911. First located on Liberty Street, the store moved to Union Street, where it has been ever since.

Perman’s father, George Stawarz, purchased the business in 1960 and she began operating it in 1990. Prior to starting to run the business, Perman worked at Smith College as a gardener.

Today she’s the sole owner, although some people still own shares of the business.

When asked if she’s thought about becoming “Carol II,” Williamson said she had.

“I like the business,” Williamson said. “It’s a cool culture.”

Williamson said, however, that she would like to finish her business degree before going through with any takeover.

Perman said that she “firmly believes that every town needs a local hardware store.”

“It’s part of the community,” she said.

Perman shared how when there was a bad October snowstorm in 2011, and there was a power outage for days, Manchester Hardware stayed open and took payments in cash.

“Our customers tell us every single day how much they love us,” she said.

As for people interested in buying the store, Perman said they’re free to reach out to her.

“It’s a nice way to make a living,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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