I f you’ve driven by Goody’s Hardware & Paint in East Haven on a summer Saturday, then you’ve probably noticed people carrying colorful cans and newly purchased tools to their cars, getting the necessities for that weekend’s home improvement project.
You might also have noticed individuals relaxing about the parking lot, eating hot dogs and shooting the breeze. What you probably couldn’t tell is that the hot dogs, grilled up by local high school students, are free. That’s because Saturdays are customer appreciation days at the 80-year-old retail institution.
On those days, you’ll also see PoPo’s club car, which serves breakfast (egg sandwiches and the like), lunch sandwiches and specials in the lot from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday. But the hot dogs in particular—about 500 are grilled up and served each week during the warm months of the year—are Goody’s way of saying, “Thanks for your business.”
Goody’s says that in other ways, too. There is, for instance, the classically kind and unobtrusive, “Can I help you with anything today?” extended to all who enter. And when you call the store, a real person—never an automated communication system—answers, ready to advise.
These details may seem trivial, but it’s always been the details that make the difference. Yelp reviews for the business are unfailingly effusive: “…the employees there are fantastic.” “Always very helpful.” “I love going here.” “…brilliant at diagnosing what you need.”
While Goody’s isn’t small by any means (the space is over 12,000 square feet), it’s dwarfed by “big box” hardware stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot. But it has so much heart, and it keeps up with the big guys in terms of getting people what they need.
It has to, because, as great as the staff is at guiding the less experienced, pros and seasoned amateurs flock there with their various, highly specialized needs. Visit during the morning rush on a weekday and you’ll witness a crew of contractors and other professionals shopping for their latest jobs.
Owner David Katz proudly rattles off the years worked among his team of nearly 20 employees, which includes his father Dan, uncle Mike and brother Rob. The staff also includes women, he points out, and two native Spanish speakers to accommodate a wider range of comers. The roster boasts employees who’ve worked at the store for 20 years, 30 years, and even one who’s been there for 41 years.
Among “newer” ones, some have worked there for a good 7 or 8 years.
Given these indications, I tell Katz, who’s in the store most days and knows every aisle up and down, that he must be good to his workers. He flips it: “Well, they’re good to us.”
Maybe goodness to each other is just in the DNA of Goody’s. The store was opened in 1933 by Katz’s grandfather, Israel “Goody” Katz, first as a general store and eventually specializing towards hardware. It’s been family-owned for its entire existence.
Today hardware is the main draw, but you’ll find ancillary and maybe some unexpected items while scanning the shelves. It’s got rows of every cleaning agent under the sun, as well as calculators, pencils and other office supplies; bug spray, gardening tools and—on a rack towards the back—a selection of straw sun hats; and grills and coffee makers and vacuum cleaners.
With colder months on the way, Katz notes that Goody’s will constantly stock sand, salt and other winter-weather needs. Even when other stores run low or out during major winter storms, which seem inevitable these days, Katz is determined to keep up with demand.
Speaking of other hardware stores—which I try to do during our conversation—Katz politely demurs, not wanting to compare his store to competitors but happy to admit the special brand of service at Goody’s. He says customers sometimes walk into Goody’s in search of that extra touch after being disappointed elsewhere. Katz says, “Make this your first stop, instead of your last,” and that seems fair.
Goody’s Hardware and Paint
540 Main Street, East Haven (map)
Mon-Fri 7am-5:30pm, Sat 7am-5pm, Sun 8am-12:30pm
Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.