For more than four decades, Bill Edwards has helped customers find whatever they need: A hammer, a light bulb, a snow shovel, grass seed or just the right nut, bolt, nail or screw. Now, he needs a customer who wants to buy it all.
The owner of Lexington’s last independent hardware store, Chevy Chase Hardware, has put the business up for sale.
“I still like coming to work every day,” said Edwards, who turns 70 in November. “But I’ve got bad knees, my ankles are worn out, and I don’t need to be working on my feet six days a week.”
Edwards doesn’t think he will have much trouble selling the business at 883 East High Street, which he said is profitable.
“Over the years we've had a number of regular customers say, ‘When you are ready to sell let us know,’” he said. “It's a good, thriving business that needs to stay. It's important to the neighborhood.”
Over the past 43 years, Edwards has operated hardware stores at three locations in Lexington. He said this location, which he has had for 18 years, is by far the best. Before him, hardware stores there were operated by Wilson Cox and Dick Botkin.
The district of small, mostly local retailers is an easy drive, walk or bike ride from in-town neighborhoods such as Chevy Chase, Ashland Park, Hollywood, Columbia Heights, Mentelle and Kenwick.
“It’s just a good spot,” Edwards said. “There's no Home Depot or Lowes on top of us; there's never going to be one.”
Edwards tries to keep his prices comparable to the big-box stores, in part by belonging to a national buying group. The hardware business can be challenging, because a good one must stock tens of thousands of slow-selling items. Many customers shop there because they know they can find whatever they need.
Last year, his building got a new owner, a company owned by Debbie Roark-Sutherland of Lexington.
“They've been good landlords,” Edward said. “They want to raise our rent, but I expected that. I don’t think we’ll have a problem negotiating a new lease. They want us to be here.”
Edwards and his wife, Carol, who manages the store’s finances, have two children who work in the store, Will Edwards and Avery Garner, and four grandchildren.
Edwards said he wants to keep working in retirement — just not six days a week.
“It's taken us a long time to decide to do it,” Edwards said of selling the store. “We thoroughly enjoy it. It's just time, while I can still walk.”