Located in Seattle’s lively University District, Hardwick’s is more than just your neighborhood hardware store. Dealing in standard items like green garden hoses and flathead screwdrivers to Japanese pruning saws and Italian riffler rasps, Hardwick’s has earned a reputation for having the right tools for the job. But if you look beyond the aisles of hard-to-find augers and one-of-a-kind hand drills, you’ll find that while the shop sells hardware, tools and more, family is the bedrock of business at Hardwick’s.
A Seattle institution for nearly eight decades, Hardwick’s is currently in its fourth generation of family members manning the shop. Business dates back to the days of the Great Depression when Charles Dean Hardwick set up shop in 1932 after losing his real estate company in the market crash. The shop was originally a secondhand store and Charles used his own office furniture as the store’s original inventory. He also purchased and sold used goods from customers and stocked factory seconds and damaged freight from Milwaukee Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad.
The Second Generation
Four years later his son, Dean Ernest Hardwick, opened up a second location at the current site. The two stores were consolidated in 1938 after Dean enlisted in the military during World War II and the father and son ran the business together until Charles retired in the late 1940s. After his father retired, Dean taught his three sons the ways of the shop and to this day his oldest son Bill, and youngest son Dean, oversee the day-to-day operations of the store.
“I remember my dad more or less conscripted us kids into working every other weekend. There was a lot of World War II surplus stock at the time so my brothers and I would end up cleaning old saws and planes and hammers in the alley,” said Bill Hardwick, current part owner. “Who would’ve guessed that I would later end up having so much fun doing the everyday stuff at the store and going to people’s houses and buying things that I would end up sticking with it.”
The Third Generation
In 1976 the two brothers formed Hardwick & Sons, Inc. and have been running the shop ever since, transforming the business to reflect the changing needs of the neighborhood. Hardwick’s continues to give cash or store credit for used goods, which adds to the shop’s uniqueness and gives the store that little extra something you won’t find at your average big box hardware store. This combination of second-hand store coziness and hardware store appeal makes Hardwick’s a destination for a wide array of customers, ranging from interior decorators to everyday handymen working on weekend projects.
And while second-hand wares are available, in recent years the focus of the shop has shifted from furniture to tools and hardware. You’ll still be able to find select items of furniture but the main emphasis is on new and used tools as well as housewares, plumbing, electrical and hardware items.
Bill summed up what has been the key to Hardwick’s longevity and what has made the shop a local institution:
“We’ve been willing to change and adjust what we do to fit people’s needs throughout the years,” Bill said. “The great part about being at the store is that you never really know what’s going to be on the shelves because what we carry is always changing. There are so many different things coming and going each day that it really makes things exciting.”
Continuing the Family Tradition
Along with maintaining the inventory of specialty tools and hardware that Hardwick’s is known for, Bill and Dean also made sure the shop kept true to its family roots. Today Hardwick’s continues to be a family-owned and operated business with a new generation of Hardwicks ready to become future owners of the store.
If you drop by, chances are you’ll find William, Dean or any of the younger Hardwicks – John, Paul or Maribeth – hard at work stocking shelves, taking inventory or working behind the counter ready to help you find whatever it is you need to get the job done.
Graciously written by our talented nephew and cousin, Travis Hay. Check out his award-winning Seattle music blog.