When Hurricane Sandy left parts of Cheshire and the state without power in October, Pat Bowman sent an email to his customers to make sure they had his cell and home telephone numbers.
Knowing folks might urgently need supplies like gas cans, batteries and sump pumps, the owner of Cheshire’s R.W. Hine Ace Hardware store said he wanted to be available even if the phones were down or the store was closed.
“If current conditions allow safe travel we will try to accommodate your needs by meeting you at the store,” he wrote in the email.
Bowman, owner of the store for more than three decades, said he just wanted to help his customers during a difficult time. But he also believes that without that kind of commitment, a small store like his could never compete with big box retailers.
“I think that’s why we survive,” said Bowman. “The day we don’t bring a service to the people of Cheshire where they want to buy from us, we go away.”
One of the oldest businesses in Cheshire, the hardware store was founded in 1910 by Raymond Walter Hine at the Maple Avenue site where it still does business today.
The store has expanded several times through the years but still has an old-fashioned, mom-and-pop feel. It has gone through different owners, but has always been a family business. The Bowman family has been
running it for 34 years.
The store was among several businesses profiled in a textbook written by Cheshire residents David T. Cadden and Sandra L. Lueder that will be used to teach college students about successful entrepreneurs.
Bowman said the customers are a big reason for the store’s staying power.
“The people of Cheshire really own Cheshire and they like to support their community, whether it’s a hardware store, restaurant or any of the other small businesses in town,” Bowman said. “Everything we sell can be bought someplace else, whether it’s online or in another store. People in
general like to keep their money in the community.”
In addition to tools and hardware, the store sells lawn and garden products, housewares and seasonal items. “Obviously the Christmas Shop is busy this time of year,” Bowman said.
The store, which is a member of the ACE Hardware cooperative, also provides services like paint matching, duplicating keys and filling propane tanks, and rents myriad power tools and lawn equipment items. It carries brands such as Weber, Scotts and Benjamin Moore paint.
Hine’s is also known for its tradition of hosting Santa. This year, Santa is scheduled to visit the store on Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.