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Block, hardware store closing

October 12, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - Mary Lou Souders' decision to close the Hancock Block Company and Hardware Store after 20 years at its present location wasn't as hard as she thought it would be.

"I feel the business is running me instead of me running it," she said. "I have no time to myself."

The business at 130 Pennsylvania Ave. is open six days a week, 11 hours a day. While the hours are normally 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Souders said it wasn't unusual for her to still be in the store at 10 p.m.

Efforts to sell the business were unsuccessful. Fate stepped in and now it appears the building will revert back to its original use - as a church.

Grace Christian Fellowship, which currently meets directly across the street, is buying the building. The building the church now occupies - which used to be the manse for the Hancock Assembly of God - will be sold.

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Souders said an elder of the church was riding by one day and out of the blue, he stopped into the store and asked if the building might be for sale.

"I said 'yes,'" she said, amazed since she had put it on the market just 10 days earlier.

Paul Smith said it all began when his church got a line on some free pews in the Boonsboro area.

After learning that Souders wanted to sell her building, Smith said arrangements were made to take the pews to Hancock. The man who delivered those pews heard that the church was buying the building across the street and offered to purchase the land the church had previously obtained to build a new church.

"Everything has fallen into place," Smith said. Now all that's left is to sell the current Grace Christian Fellowship building.

"Our building had been the Hancock Assembly of God," Souders said, noting that it was and still is her church. There was a vote to move to a new site so the church could grow and the majority of the church members agreed.

Souders and her late husband, Robert, who had voted against the move, bought the building and turned it into the block and hardware company.

"It was a good life," she said, noting that all four of her children grew up in and around the business. None of the Souders' children wanted to carry on with the store, which was another reason for the decision to close.

The business once was on Washington Street and some block is still sold from that site. When Robert Souders and his father, Elmer, first got into the business in 1966, it was known as W.A. Blackwell, dating at least to 1945.

At first, the business on Pennsylvania Avenue was associated with True Value Hardware. For the past seven years, it has been Do It Best Hardware.

Souders, 57, has a plan to change the direction of her life, beginning with a South African mission trip later this month.

"I've been to Africa before and also to Haiti," she said.

She also wants to volunteer at Mount Hope Prison Ministry which is directed by her friend, Lynn Singleton.

There will be a liquidation auction on Nov. 18 at the block and hardware store.

All will go except several houses behind the store, a huge metal storage building and a repair shop, all of which will become income properties for Souders.

"This is bittersweet for me," she said. "We have dedicated employees, some of whom have been here longer than me."

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