The city’s oldest hardware stores (and signs)

Ever notice that hardware and paint supply stores in New York tend to be independent, family-named shops dating back generations?

How do they beat back bigger chains—do they own the buildings they’re in and therefore are immune to drastic rent hikes? Lure in customers with hard-to-find parts made for the city’s old buildings?

The number of independent drugstores, bookstores, and other shops keep dwindling, but these guys manage to stick around. Warshaw Hardware, on Third Avenue and 20th Street, has been holding court since before the Great Depression.


Vercesi Hardware, on 23rd Street near Lexington Avenue, got its start when Woodrow Wilson was running the country.


S. Wolf Paints and Wallpaper, on Ninth Avenue in the 50s, is the granddaddy of them all, opening in 1869—just a few years after the end of the Civil War!

Shuttered on a recent weekday, S. Wolf still seems to be in business though—they have a Yelp page after all.

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15 Responses to “The city’s oldest hardware stores (and signs)”

  1. Lisa Says:

    How do the small hardware shops manage to survive? By being utterly indispensable , say I!

    The men who run hardware stores don’t just sell crap; they diagnose your problem, offer free advice, incidentally sell the doohickeys needed to solve the problem. There’s no more useful, honest, noble creature than the hardware guy, in my book (the indifferent staff at Home Depot– HA! Don’t make me laugh–NOT hardware guys.)

    Vercesi, Warshaw, Artie’s (of West 14th St), and Garber’s (West Village) are all spectacular.

    Sorry to bloviate, but hardware stores are a passion of mine.

    • wildnewyork Says:

      I love Garber’s too. Wish they were still in their old location, but at least they’re in business. Every super I’ve ever had in the West Village goes to them.

  2. Gary Levinson Says:

    Wolf Paints has been owned by Janovic (another long-time New York Co) since the late 90s. Sadly, they’ve recently discontinued Wolf’s own line of paints.

  3. Revelations in Humdrum N.Y. Transit-Fare Statistic - NYTimes.com Says:

    [...] whirlwind tour of the city’s oldest hardware stores and their vintage signage. [Ephemeral New [...]

  4. Ed Moroney Says:

    How is it that Wankel’s Hardware which has been family owned since 1896 isn’t listed here? Upper East side on Third Ave (Between 88th and 89th) it is the same location it began in and run by a great granddaughter of the founders. The New Yorker Magazine even ranked it “Best Neighborhood hardware store on the Upper East side…” It is more than a store, it is a unique community landmark of service. A picture of the building itself is would cause a smile – and curiosity. Wildnewyork – you missed the boat on this one.

    • wildnewyork Says:

      Actually, Wankel’s inspired this post. I came across their wonderful store over the weekend. Unfortunately, the photos I took came out poorly, so I decided not to put them up and figured I’d save Wankel’s for another post on family-owned stores. There are others I didn’t include–this is not the definitive list!

      • Ed Moroney Says:

        Thanks for the good news. It is a interesting/wonderful store. The numbers of family-owned places appear to be declining in an incredible rate – what keeps the survivors surviving would make a great article/study. Appreciate what you do.

  5. Lisa Says:

    I too was heartbroken when Garbers moved. In truth, I haven’t been to their new location, but I have no doubt they continue to be a splendid store I knew & loved. Those guys had the patience of SAINTS with all my naive questions– my DIY wartime consiglieres!

  6. Revelations From a Humdrum Transit-Fare Statistic | Transportation Says:

    [...] whirlwind tour of the city’s oldest hardware stores and their vintage signage. [Ephemeral New [...]

  7. Junkyard dog Says:

    One reason for the long life of these hardware stores is the fact that they don’t often have sales. They make a hefty profit on many items and sometimes even charge more than “suggested” list prices on hard-to-find stuff.

    Counter-intuitively, this is a good thing for their customers. The hardware stores keep chugging along, dependable and useful. New generations take over a profitable family enterprise instead of looking for greener fields with all their unknowns. The advice and knowhow that the stores provide in all their eccentricity and individuality is far more valuable than a few cents off on some items. The big box stores and the national chains could be selling feathers for all that their employees and marketing geniuses care. They come and go, but the local hardware store will outlast them all.

  8. John V Says:

    Lisa nails it The small stores have knowledge, not just stuff. I live half a block from Warshaw, and when I went in looking for air-conditioner filters, the first thing the guy asked was what building I lived in. Same thing with plumbing parts and other bits and pieces. They’re indispensable neighborhood fixtures. But I hope to god they own their own buildings.

  9. The City’s Oldest Hardware Stores « NYC WESTCHESTER RESOURCE Says:

    [...] The city’s oldest hardware stores and signs « Ephemeral New York. Categories: Signs Tags: Hardware Store, Oldest signs LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  10. Gregg Goldberg Says:

    Great article, Gregg Goldberg owner Goldberg Hardware est1904 Tarrytown NY

  11. Alice Hohnsbehn Says:

    I was born & raised directly across the street from Wolf’s. If we couldn’t find any of our Fathers, odds were they were over at Wolf’s hanging out & solving all the problems of the world.

  12. Ana Pristoni Says:

    This wonderful hardware store, formally Veresi now 23rd Street Hardware, is closing in December 2013. The building, erected in 1912, will be demolished and condos will fill its historical space. Tragic, sad and bad for those of us who live, work and thrive in this neighborhood. Corporate greed and paid off politicians will benefit financially, but for those of us who have relied upon and enjoyed the convenience of this mom & pop shop will suffer, as will the family business owners of this store. And another piece of NYC history destroyed. Tragic indeed.

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