Spotlight: Independently Owned, Collaboratively Focused
At Harwich Paint and Chatham Paint, their name tells only part of their story.
Walking through the doors of a hardware store can be a little like stepping into a Norman Rockwell painting—old school, every day, in a pleasant way. There’s that distinctive aroma—a mysterious blend of possibility, rubber, wood, metal, and paint—that brings us back to the time before disposable everything and planned obsolescence.
Hardware stores offer the opportunity to fix little things—to find just the right bolt, or nail, a washer or cotter pin—or to consider magically transforming living spaces into something new with just a coat of paint, or rolls of wallpaper.
Lynn and Paul Fox know better than many the importance of a hardware store to a neighborhood and the community. It’s been their business and their life for more than 20 years. The couple started in 1998 with their first paint and wallpaper store in Orleans. They opened after Paul, who’d had a successful painting business, decided to try his hand in the retail arena.
Paul always wanted a paint store where people could go and get advice; he wanted to share his experience with people. A little over a decade later, the couple moved from Orleans to East Harwich. There, they expanded the store’s hardware offerings and joined with Ace Hardware; operating their business under the name Harwich Paint and Decorating.
Many people don’t understand, Paul explains, that Ace Hardware stores are not franchises, but independently-owned businesses. Ace is a cooperative purchase group that helps business owners join together to acquire goods at a lower price.
“Then we’re able to pass those savings on to our customers,” he says.
Today, the couple offers traditional hardware items, as well as some less expected: fire pit cooking tools, cast iron cookware, greeting cards and pet supplies. They also sell Weber grills.
The Foxes recently purchased the former Chatham Hardware building. Much of their business in Harwich comes from Chatham, and the Foxes hope the new store will prove convenient for existing customers. Speaking of convenience, Lynn adds with a broad smile, the store has its own parking, a luxury on Chatham’s Main Street.
“It’s going to be a work in progress,” Paul says, “But, the idea is that we want to have basic items that people need. Mostly, we’re hoping to bring back that neighborhood hardware store for people in Chatham.”
While filling the necessary niche of a corner hardware store is a critical role, the Harwich location will continue to provide decorating services. Employees can guide a homeowner through a major home face-lift—assisting homeowners as they tick items off their supply list, all while offering expert advice, and as in the case of window treatments, providing professional installation.
“We sell a lot of paint,” Paul says. “And our paint department is very knowledgeable.” Benjamin Moore (a local favorite), Magnolia, and Clark & Kensington paints are sold at the stores. Once a customer chooses a paint brand and color, those working in the paint department can help a homeowner from start to finish, explaining how to prep and clean the area to be painted, and then how to apply the product. “We’ve been lucky and been able to hire some really great people,” Paul points out.
For those struggling with making the right choice of paint colors for their home, the Harwich store has a color consultant, free of charge, available Saturdays and Sundays to help those who are committed to Do-It-Yourself. “People can bring in pictures, something that is their inspiration or central to their idea for a room,” Lynn says. “Our consultant will then assist with color selections. The store also sells wallpaper for those homeowners wanting to add more than just paint to their walls.”
The store is a Hunter Douglas™ Gallery dealer with a full line of Hunter Douglas™ products. The company is the leader in the industry, Lynn notes. She is one of the primary contacts for window fashions, helping homeowners choose the right kind of treatment; doing house visits to make sure what’s been chosen does the job the homeowner wants done; then measuring and installing the shutters, blinds or shades.
In the end, Paul says, “hardware store” is a very broad description for what can be found walking through the doors of their establishments. “We help people find just what they need for their project, from the smallest thing, to helping them create the vision they have for their homes,” he says.