A Trip to the Hardware Store
March/April, 2005 - Issue #6
"Honey, do we need any light bulbs?"

That's my cue that my husband is getting ready for his weekend run to Newhall Hardware. I'm sure he'll load up on light bulbs, but it's also a chance for him to replace brooms, pick up some electrical supplies and chitchat with the owners. His affection for the 58-year-old business is shared by many old-timers in Santa Clarita. With the swell of big box stores and the lack of parking in the downtown area, Newhall Hardware has become one of the best kept secrets in town.

Call it a candy store for those armed with a "honey do" list; as soon as you walk in the door of Newhall Hardware, you are transported back in time. Empty peanut shells crunch beneath your feet and you are overwhelmed by the sight of row-upon-row of nuts and bolts, tools and toys and yes, even the kitchen sink with pots and pans, ice cream makers, cast iron skillets and coffee pots. It doesn't take long before a clerk approaches to offer assistance.

Newhall Hardware was open by Don Guglielmino in 1947. As the community grew, Guglielmino's store was the place to stop before heading out on a camping trip, making repairs on your home or finding that special gift for a new neighbor. Decades later, a garden and nursery section was added across the street with a large inventory of plants, flowers, lawnmowers and expert advice, a plus for amateur green thumbs.

Victor Feany began working at Newhall Hardware in 1978 and he eventually bought the store from Guglielmino 20 years later. It was during that time the garden shop was dismantled for the widening of Railroad Avenue and the Jan Heidt/Newhall Metrolink station. With the loss of the garden shop, parking became one of Newhall Hardware's biggest problems.

Ira Latto and his son Adam, 11, drove over from the Sand Canyon area to purchase pipes for Adam's school project. They needed a specific size for Adam's rocket.

"(Newhall Hardware) is inconvenient and the parking is terrible, but it's the best service hardware store," Ira Latto said as his son munched on peanuts.

It's that service that keeps the customer's coming back, said Manager Diane Vradenburg, who began working at Newhall Hardware 27 years ago. She has dealt with some patrons who complain about high prices, but Vradenburg said it's hard to compete with the buying power of the big box stores.

Pricing and parking may be a deciding factor with the other problem for Newhall Hardware; the loss of corporate accounts.

Manager Diane Vradenburg and owner Victor Feany chat with customers
Manager Diane Vradenburg and owner Victor Feany chat with customers
Before the convenience of credit cards, Feany said many of his corporate account holders would send employees in who could just sign for items. Now many of these companies issue credit cards for their employees, allowing them the option to buy goods just about anywhere in town. Several local businesses, however, like the William S. Hart Union High School District, are still good customers and continue to buy from Newhall Hardware, Feany said.

"A lot of things have changed. This town is getting bigger and it sometimes means a trip across town to come here," he said.

On a rainy Friday in January, Don Arsneault and Aaron Duncan, from Super Maintenance in Tarzana, stopped in to buy rain gear.

"They have everything we need," Arsneault said about Newhall Hardware as he and Duncan grab a bag of peanuts to add to their order.

As other patrons filed in, clerks were busy climbing ladders and digging into bins to find exactly what the customer needed. Everyone was talking about the rain and how their business was fairing while Feany and Vradenburg rung up orders on a worn-out cash register. (There are no computerized registers at Newhall Hardware. Inventory is done by hand and can take up to three months).

"We have many returning customers because we help them," Vradenburg said. "Many times I hear customers say they have been everywhere else and knew we had what they were looking for, but forgot all about us or the parking is bad."

Feany said a redevelopment plan by the city of Santa Clarita addresses the need for more parking in downtown Newhall but the process has been slow. He's hoping the new crop of Santa Clarita homeowners and businesses will take the time to come into the store and discover that friendly service is not a thing of the past.

Whether its light bulbs or rain gear, it was easy to see on that rainy January day that sometimes the heart and soul of a community can be found in the aisles of an old-fashion hardware store.

Newhall Hardware is located at 24322 San Fernando Road. The telephone number is 259-3212.
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