Hardware fun, was: Re: [FoRK] Re: reas. conv. 9/27 Re: Meaning

Ken Meltsner < meltsner at alum.mit.edu > on > Fri Sep 29 07:27:19 PDT 2006

I'm a real hardware store addict/maven.

My favorite store was the now-deceased Wallace-Armer in Schenectady
NY.  They had everything and anything, especially various "new old
stock" parts that had been around since time began.  The store's
biggest claim to fame outside of the sheer range of items was its cash
register system.  Apparently, it was the last one running in the world
and was donated to the Smithsonian when the store shut down.  It
worked like this:

*  Clerk takes customer's money/credit card and writes up the order

*  Everything goes into a little metal carrier.

*  Carrier is clipped on to a continuous rope loop which runs
throughout the entire store and is in constant motion.

*  Rope takes carrier to the central cashier.

*  Cashier takes carrier, performs transaction, sends carrier back

*  Carrier arrives at clerk's station, clerk removes contents, etc.

The cool part was that there were a number of stations, each coded
with a unique set of tabs.  When the carrier whizzed by, the tabs
would match the destination set on the carrier and it would be shunted
off the loop.

Apparently, these were quite popular in department stores many decades
ago -- Wallace-Armer was the last to use this technology.

Other great hardware stores:


*  National Hardware on 27th St. -- owner is converting old storage
area to some sort of tool/hardware museum, but it may be an excuse to
keep a lot of old junk around.  Seems to let old stock fall to the
bottom of display cabinets, so there's a lot of interesting stuff at
20 year-old prices in random piles.

*  Fillinger's (43rd St) which really does have just about every
modern piece of hardware/equipment.  Very helpful, especially when you
want boxed hardware or weird screws, or metric fittings.


*  Hardwick's in Seattle.  Never been, definitely want to go sometime.

*  Lee Valley (several Canadian locations).  Less "ambience" than I
like, but a good selection of things on display (most items are
retrieved by clerks from a back room) and some interesting items on

*  Pastime in El Cerrito CA.  I grew up going to these guys.  They
haven't changed much, as far as I can tell, in the last 3 decades.
Ken Meltsner

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