Death of the hardware store

As the harmless nondescript strips of suburban Melbourne are systematically bulldozed by developers, a few local shops cling to each other like possums in the equally sparse remnant vegetation.

Next to the sublime Melbourne Vintage Audio shop (I wrote about yesterday) sits this slither of a hardware store dug in like an echidna, bristling with spiky wares to ward off anyone in a sharp suit. In the soft underbelly no doubt there is an ancient shopkeeper and an able assistant who can find a 31/2″ screw in a flash (no we don’t sell metric fittings in here my dear they would say ever so slightly patronisingly).

When we lived in St Kilda there was such a little hardware shop just off Acland St – a great refuge for newlyweds unsure of the etiquette of dealing with the early disasters of home making. Nothing like a wander about an array of power tools and toxic chemicals to regain a sense of calm as a young bride.


Now that these unruly hives of dangerous goods are being turned into cafes or Asian minimarts (as happened to the little hardware shop in Oakleigh recently) or boarded up until the developer can get a few in a row and knock down the lot – they are truly a dying piece of the suburban landscape.

Of course I realise, that the modern suburban human has likely lost the knowledge and culture of hardware worship. The Saturday mornings standing in a bored stupor between the bags of blood and bone and the tubs of turpentine while Dad negotiated some new gate fitting at least filled the lungs and imprinted something mysterious on the senses of my generation. So that as adults the mere smell of sawdust could reawaken an inexplicable urge to return to a hardware store with all the determination of salmon seeking a spawning ground.

Now there is only the ritual drive to Bunnings, the only stupor the reality television promise of superior home makeovers so that the acquisition of hardware and building materials has been heightened to a near professional pursuit complete with the right clothes and a superior SUV.

But I am writing here alongside the converted. Who among you my good friends would not wish to venture into the deep, magical interior of the Malvern village hardware shop and come out with a welding mask and a pair of barbecue tongs with no real plan in mind other than that of possibility?






16 thoughts on “Death of the hardware store

  1. Hi Chas, delightful article! We have been subject to the same trends here, but there are a few old hardware shops in Norfolk that contnue to do what you describe…Thorns in Norwich for one; a labyrinth of all kinds of fittings, paints, equipment, tools, cleaning substances, key cutting, nuts, bolts and what have you, rather like a mini IKEA in terms of the ability to become consumed and unable (unwilling?) to find the way out…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Nigel – so nice of you to reblog this one – it is a sad thing. Perhaps there should be co-operative for haphazardly managed hardware! Do post up something on Thorns – sounds great.


  2. I used love roaming through a good hardware store! Like you some of my very early memories are accompanying my Dad to the hardware store in our little town. Nice post that has tripped a few memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lisa – it’s so funny that Australians imagine we are emanating the US mode of capitalism whenever progress seems to rattle on unfettered – when in fact we’re just following our own form of avarice.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Me, me! I love hardware stores, and mourned deeply when the original Chalmers in Hawthorn was taken over by Mitre 10. Before then, it had been a magical cave of the esoteric, the unusual, the unobtainable, its ceilings festooned with willow baskets of all sizes. One could still buy a collapsible wooden drying rack on wheels, 3 screws or six inches of rubber matting, rather than generic plastic multipacks or large minimum quantities of anything. They kept the name, but not the character…

    Liked by 1 person

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