Generations of Success
from a Ten Dollar Bill

Over 100 years ago, Charles Eastman set in motion a local business that still serves the Falmouth community today

A Falmouth landmark, Eastman’s Hardware, at the end of Main Street, has been an invaluable resource for generations. The following story was produced by local writer Kathy Sharp Frisbee for the Woods Hole Historical Museum in 1997. Today, the owners are delighted to steward the business into its second century.

Seventy-eight years ago, in 1913, when Falmouth was a small country town with horses and buggies clopping and rumbling along Main Street and steamers plying the local waters, a 37-year-old resident named Charles Eastman, known by everyone as “Charlie,” made a momentous personal decision based on confidence in himself and his conviction that bicycles would continue to be necessary for transportation. He resigned his position as manager of the Falmouth Plumbing and Hardware Company, where he had worked for seven years, and promptly invested a ten-dollar bill in his own small enterprise. In a barn behind his home on Gifford Street, he opened a modest bicycle sales and service shop and called it simply “The Old Bicycle Shop.”

Charlie was a gentle man with the grit, wit and trading instincts that contributed to the kind of business success few people have known, but everyone values. It was successes based on hard work, honest effort, respect for others, and dry humor. While Charlie’s goal was to provide for his family, it was likewise to serve his community by selling a wide assortment of basic products, providing value for his customers, and using trustworthy business practices. The dream he dreamed in 1913 has become an enduring reality on Main Street and a tribute to traditions. Its character and integrity have been upheld through three generations and are maintained today by his grandson, Charles Elwood Eastman, Jr., know to everyone as “Chuck.”

Charles Thomas Eastman was born in February 1876, to Thomas C. and Sarah Gardner Eastman of Milford, Massachusetts. Like most of his generation, Charlie cut his baby teeth on industry and ingenuity from watching his mother manage home responsibilities and his father run a gristmill, a pasteboard and shoe box manufacturing industry, and a watch repair service. As a young man, Charlie learned to repair bicycles while working at a Milford bicycle business. In 1903, at age 27, he struck out on his own to experience a wider scope of hardware business operations in Uxbridge, Massachusetts and Woonsocket, Rhode Island. In September 1904, he married Lura Sturtevant of Milford, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Alvin C. Sturtevant. 

In 1906, Charlie and Lura moved to Falmouth, where Charlie had accepted a management position with the Falmouth Plumbing and Hardware Company. They arrived in April on Patriot’s Day, a day they long remembered for the inviting band music played on the Village Green, the colorful flag decorations, and the air of gaiety that excited the whole town. The next year, 1907, brought the birth of their first son, Thomas A. (Tom).