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Hancock hardware store auctions off remaining inventory

November 30, 1999|By CANDICE BOSLEY

HANCOCK ? As he loaded boxes of nails, wooden blocks, sink stoppers and other miscellaneous items into the back of his pickup truck, Belvin Mann did not philosophize or wax poetic about the loss of his hometown hardware store.

He simply said he will miss it.

"Heck, I used to come over on Saturday and Sunday when they weren't even open, and (the owner) would come get me stuff," Mann, of Hancock, said Saturday.

Mann was one of hundreds of people who came Saturday to an auction of Hancock Block and Hardware's inventory, when everything that wasn't sold during prior going-out-of-business sales was auctioned.

Piece by piece, bid by bid, head nod by head nod, thousands of items were sold.

"I hate to see the store close. I'm sure a lot of others agree," Mann said. "You don't miss nothing 'til it's gone."

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The store opened at 130 Pennsylvania Ave. in 1985, and was owned by the late Robert Souders and his wife, Mary Lou Souders.

Its origins are traced to 1966, when Robert Souders and his father, Elmer, bought Hancock Block Products. They manufactured concrete block products, septic tanks and other items before opening a small store in the company's Washington Street location.

They moved into the Pennsylvania Avenue store 21 years ago after the building was vacated by Hancock Assembly of God, which built a bigger church.

Now, the building is being converted back to a church, having been sold to Grace Christian Fellowship.

Souders said her only regret in closing the business is that her employees are out of work, and loyal customers will have to go elsewhere. None of her employees could take over the business, and none of her four children were interested, she said.

Her husband died nearly five years ago.

"He loved being in business," Souders said. "He liked the hardware business, the concrete business. But he told me to do what I need to do."

She said she would tried to sell the business a couple of times, once coming within a month of a sale before the prospective buyers backed out.

Earlier this summer, she contacted a real estate agent about selling the building, but was wondering more than a week later why he had not returned to take measurements or with any paperwork.

That's when Paul Smith walked through the door, inquiring about buying the building for Grace Christian Fellowship.

Auctioning off her remaining inventory nearly was a requirement because the state gives a business 60 days to close, said Souders, who had sales of up to 60 percent off all merchandise before the auction.

She seemed content Saturday as an auctioneer prattled in the background.

"Six months ago, I just saw myself here until I died," Souders said.

She said she recently returned from a 13-day mission trip to South Africa, and hopes to use her newfound free time to spend with her six grandchildren and do volunteer work.

"Just enjoy my life. Do what I want to do," she said. "It's mostly sweet, not bittersweet."

Items auctioned off included shelving, storage containers, small and large hardware, wiring and concrete products, as well as odds and ends including boxes of empty glass Pepsi bottles, seed packets, spark plugs and new boxed toy trucks.

Ben Donegan was one of the many people who had acquired a bidder's number for the auction. He had $33 in his pocket, and his eye on an old hammer and a small metal storage device, which he hoped to buy for his mother so she could organize her mail.

Donegan noted that Hancock still will have a hardware store ? Mr. Hardware ? but said that Souders' shop was special.

"Like in small towns everywhere, everyone knows everyone," he said. "This was Hancock's hardware store."

Mark Pierce, who owns MB Hauling/Excavating in Little Orleans, Md., paid $5 for a skid of nails at the auction. Pierce, 31, grew up with one of Souders' sons, and his parents live next door to the store.

"There's only one other person now in Hancock with a hardware store, so yeah, it's kind of sad to see," he said of Souders' store closing.

Eldon Younker, a farmer in Mercersburg, Pa., said Hancock Block and Hardware was convenient for him.

"I had an account here with them for years," Younker said. "I hate to see them go."

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