Seitz-Agin Hardware to close this month
Seitz-Agin Hardware, a mainstay in Cleveland Heights for 66 years, will close this month. Owner Joel Borwick cited the economic climate as the reason for closing.
“When the recession hit it just seemed to change everything,” Borwick explained. “Business really went down and the bottom line is we lost money for the last year or two. I can’t do that forever, and I don’t see how it’s going to come back.”
Borwick bought the store 38 years ago when he was looking to get into the retail business. “Somebody knew somebody who knew the people who owned this place, and they got us together, and lo and behold, I owned a hardware store.” The store, which is named after the previous owners, has enjoyed a zealous patronage in Cleveland Heights.
“The community is very loyal to those who are loyal to them and those who give back to the community,” Borwick said.
He also credits his employees and their ability to deliver good service. “Other places give you help and hand you something,” Borwick explained, “but I can’t think of too many where you come in with, let’s say a faucet stem, and they’ll walk in the back room, clean it out, put the washer on for you and come back and ask for fifty cents.”
Borwick is concerned about his employees. “The truth of the matter is, they’re not really employees—they’re friends. They’re the reason I probably stayed as long as I have. But every one of them is bright and I’m sure every one of them will land on their feet. They all understand what’s going on.” All but one employee has been at Seitz-Agin for at least 30 years.
Borwick does not believe the big box stores are to blame for loss of business. “I’ve worked with them for 15 years almost, and to be frank they have not really been an issue. Maybe they kept me from growing, but we managed very well.” He holds that the economy hurt contractors, which in turn hurt store sales. He noted that some contractors are starting to find more work, but added that much of it seems to be on a smaller scale: “Instead of repairing a bathroom or a kitchen, they’re repairing a gutter outside.”
The main issue, according to Borwick, is that customer needs have changed. In the past, customers “just knew or for some reason were raised knowing how to fix things. Customers basically knew what they wanted. They still needed help, but they would do it themselves.” He's observed a change among younger customers. “They’re so busy working to make a living—I’ve got a Sunday and that’s about all I have, and I want to spend it with my children.”
When asked about customer reaction, Seitz-Agin employee Ramone Smith said people have been shocked to see the inventory down. “I sent a couple ladies out a couple weeks ago in tears. It’s like you told them one of their loved ones just passed.”
Children may inquire what is to become of Rocky, “the hardware dude.” Borwick said the big teddy bear, who greets customers near the entrance, “may be headed to my granddaughter or he may be headed to the highest bidder.”
Borwick said he has no plans to leave the area. He will continue as president of the Heights Youth Club. “I’ve always believed in giving back to the community, and I think I’ve done that over the years. I love the community, really, and that’s what it’s all about. So right now I have no plans to move.”
Frank Tascone teaches writing and literature at the University of Mount Union and is a Cleveland Heights resident.