Williamsburg Hardware up for sale after 20-year run 

  • Williamsburg Hardware  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Beth Goulet talks about her employer Greg Conz, the owner of Williamsburg Hardware in the store on Friday.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Greg Conz, the owner of Williamsburg Hardware stands with his employees, Beth Goulet, Reese Hillenbrand, Joshua Connell, Connor Twarog, and Lynn Martus. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Greg Conz, the owner of Williamsburg Hardware talks with a customer in the store on Friday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/20/2022 11:02:22 AM
Modified: 6/20/2022 11:02:02 AM

WILLIAMSBURG — Greg Conz may be looking for a buyer for Williamsburg Hardware, but that doesn’t mean he’s interested in selling it to just anyone.

“These are my children: The building, the pharmacy, and the hardware store,” Conz said.

After more than three decades as a businessman and landlord in Williamsburg, Conz, 70, is looking to retire. He’s also already sold two of the business interests he’s referred to as children: the Williamsburg Pharmacy and the 49 Main St. building that housed both the pharmacy and the hardware store.

Conz owned the pharmacy with his wife Carol, and the couple also own the hardware store.

Conz said he had hoped to sell the pharmacy to an independent operator, but ended up selling it to CVS, who moved the business to Northampton in 2020.

By contrast, Conz was able to sell the building to Richard Lau and his wife earlier this year — longtime tenants of his who own Panda Garden Chinese Restaurant in the building.

“He knows the building very well,” Conz said.

Conz also noted the pride he’s taken in being a landlord who is around.

“I live in town, but I’m also an owner-operator. If there’s a problem I’m running next store,” he said. “Richard is the same way.”

Conz was born in Northampton and spent the first year of his life in the Roundhouse — which is his family’s homestead. His family then moved to West Springfield, where he grew up.

He switched careers from electrical engineering after he bought the 49 Main St. building in Williamsburg in 1985. He renovated and expanded the old saw mill that was being used as a ceramics business, and in 1986 he put a pharmacy in it. He would subsequently go back to school to become a pharmacist and Conz described falling in love with the work.

“I really really enjoyed people,” he said, noting that he also enjoyed the experience of working with his hardware store customers.

In 2001,Conz decided to open a hardware store in the building as the town no longer had a hardware store.

“I had some great staff to start,” Conz said, noting that the late Bill Bisbee was his first hardware employee.

He also gave credit to Glenn Waggoner, and recalled how the three of them set up the shelves themselves, with Waggoner and Bisbee ordering from an old-fashioned catalog.

“I love pharmacy and hardware,” Conz said. “I could be my own best customer.”

Conz expressed a desire for the hardware store to stay in town.

“It’s a nice business for somebody to own carrying it forward,” Conz said.

The hardware store has six other employees and Conz said it would be smart for a buyer to keep them on.

“This is an established turnkey business with employees who know the products and know the operation and business,” Conz said.

Conz also said that selling the hardware store will take “whatever time it takes.”

“I just want to be careful that I’ve got the right buyer that can take care of my kid,” he said.

Conz said that in his retirement he’d like to spend more time with his grandchildren. A Williamsburg resident, he said he’s interested in getting involved in town committees and spending time in the lake house in Goshen that his parents built.

Beth Goulet, 45, the store’s bookkeeper, has worked at Williamsburg Hardware in two periods, once in her 20s and then after she moved back into town. However, she’s known Conz since she was eight years old when he was her piano teacher. Her mother also used to work at the store.

“He’s been a really great boss,” said Goulet who would like to continue working at the store after Conz sells it.

Employee Reese Hillenbrand, 19, praised the flexibility that Goulet provides to staff.

Both Hillenbrand and his fellow worker Joshua Connell, 21, are on the Williamsburg Fire Department, and Connell said that Conz’s flexibility extends to their fire work.

“He cares about you,” Connell said, of Conz. “I feel like if this were a corporation, I would not like this job as much as I do.”

As for Conz, he also had good words for his employees.

“We have an awesome set of employees,” he said. “I would not be able to do this job without them.”

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

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