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A bell jingles on the door (push, don’t pull). The creaky, worn wooden floors and the odor of motor oil bring me back to the hardware store of my youth in another town. Once upon a time there were countless home improvement shops like this one, packed floor to ceiling and shoulder to shoulder with just about everything you might need to build a thingamajig or repair a doodad. Many of them are gone now, but Spring Glen Hardware survives.

Located in a former grocery store in the Spring Glen section of Hamden, the hardware business was opened in 1948 by Frank Landino, an Italian immigrant who started as a shoemaker a few doors down. The roots of his trade remain in the back of the store, where a red neon sign announces “SHOE REPAIRING” and another on paper adds “No Shoes Taken Without Ticket.” There, Frank’s grandson Harry Landino—co-owner of the store with his father, Harry, and brother, Frank—still works several of his grandfather’s original machines as he reheels, resoles, stitches and mends customers’ shoes.

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The shoe repair shop is just one of the surprises you may encounter if you take the time to wander the aisles of Spring Glen Hardware. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason to the organization of wares. “Towels next to trowels,” employee Dave Nelson quips. When I ask Frank Landino what drives the layout, he laughs. “My father organizes, and I don’t know the method of his madness,” he says. The elder Harry is 90 years old and still works in the store most mornings. “We kid him about that all the time,” Frank says. “Wherever he sees room, he’s filling it… If he sees an empty spot, it’s not going to stay empty for long.”

You’ll find “a little of everything” here, Frank says. “If we don’t have it… we can order it.” Indeed, the variety reaches beyond tools and hardware to vegetable seeds and garden hoses, canning jars and cast iron pans, garbage cans and grills. Nelson, who grew up in the neighborhood, points toward a tall bucket outside filled with wooden rakes. He remembers when that same bucket held hockey sticks. “We played a lot of pond hockey, and you could come here and get a hockey stick and get your skates sharpened,” he recalls.

The younger Frank Landino never intended to join the family business. But his grandfather died when he was in high school, and shortly afterward his aunt, who had also helped his father run the store, passed away, too. While attending college, Frank filled in. “I came to help for a week or two, and 40 years later I’m still here,” he says. While he keeps the books and manages the store day-to-day, younger brother Harry is “hands-on. He can [fix] anything.” One longtime element of the business is repairs—windows and screens, power equipment, lamps—all handled in a shop behind the store.

In spite of what some might see as an old-fashioned business, much has changed, Frank says. When he first started, salesmen would come to call. They “came in and just took their own orders every week” by noting what was needed, he says. Now everything is ordered online, and the store has joined True Value, a cooperative of independent hardware retailers. “It’s a hard business to go in now,” Frank says. “If I was to pick now, I would never [pick hardware].” For one thing, it’s a seasonal business. This time of year, no one is buying either snowblowers or lawnmowers. For another, competition with the big box stores has posed challenges.

Spring Glen Hardware survives in part by catering to the neighborhood. It carries some older locks and hardware for Spring Glen’s 90-year-old homes. Neighbors rave about the customer service. And though some folks come only after striking out at the bigger competitors, Frank says he’s grateful for a loyal customer base. The hardware store is such a fixture that in 2017 it was honored as the subject of the town’s annual holiday ornament, sold by the Hamden Recreation Department.

Customers wander through while Frank and I are chatting, and half of them call out to him by name. We talk about the weather. Snow is coming the next day, and so are 50 lawnmowers. I say it will be great when we can mow the lawn again.

“I know, I can’t wait,” Frank says. 70 years in, another busy season at Spring Glen Hardware is about to begin.

Spring Glen Hardware
1666 Whitney Ave, Hamden (map)
Mon-Sat 8:30am-5:30pm
(203) 248-0548

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Photographed by Dan Mims.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg’s associate editor. She’s also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter at KathyLeonardCzepiel.com. Her favorite New Haven scene is a packed summer concert on the Green with dinner from the food trucks, and she loves that there’s always something new to discover here.

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