By the time Bob Bayers opened the bolt on the front door at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, a line had formed outside.
Around 40 people stood on the sidewalk, waiting for the doors to open on the first day of the end of a shop that had stood in Linden Hills for nearly 90 years. The store's owner, neighborhood stalwart Bob Bayers, had announced days earlier that he had decided to surrender and end a loosing battle against another family-owned hardware store only a few paces away from his. Now, he's trying to sell off every last snowblower, , and shelf before the store closes for good on Sept. 1.
By mid-morning, a relative flood of at least 80 people had moved through Bayers' doors, some seeking deals and others just looking to say an early goodbye. To the first 200 customers, Bob Bayers handed out gold-plated pennies as a token of his thanks for the neighborhood's years of support.
"I've been getting a lot of nice comments, a lot of heartfelt thanks," Bayers told Patch.
A hardware store is not always the first place that comes to mind as a pillar of the neighborhood. But for some, the store’s sheer longevity made it an inseparable part of downtown Linden Hills. Paint over its huge, bright white, red, and yellow façade, they might say, and it would feel like “the village” had a hole cut in it.
"I've lived in the neighborhood close to 30 years, so it's sad to see it go," shopper Sally Neal told Patch.
The narrow aisles around her bustled like a supermarket.
"We'll still have a good hardware store in Settergren's Ace Hardware (around the corner), so it's also bittersweet,” she added. “I hope Bob will get to retire and enjoy the next phase of his life."
"I was a little shocked when I heard about it, because I've lived here all my life," said fellow customer Abby Herndon."
Bayers' personal involvement with a number of neighborhood causes and events has also helped make him, personally, a fixture.
"This whole thing was hard because Bob Bayers is a lifelong friend, and my nephew works at Settergren's, and you kind of knew only one would survive," Patch reader Mary Hirsch wrote on our Facebook page . "Bob is a good man with a big heart. . I wish him lots of happiness in whatever retirement brings him."
It's a way of doing business that Mark Settergren, owner of Settergren's Ace Hardware and winner of the battle of the hardware stores, looks set to continue. Within a year of opening the Linden Hills branch of his family's nearly-90-year old hardware store, and in his store's parking lot, and helped create .
As for Bayers, his former wife and he still own his store's building. Beyond sorting out that structure's fate, he said, he will likely stay in the hardware business, advising other hardware store owners.
"Isn't that what you become, once you pass 60? A consultant?" he said.