So much of parenting is passing along knowledge to our children, and all too often, that involves teaching them how to fix something that’s broken around the house. Hence the traditional parent/child trip to the local hardware store.
We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with going to one of the suburban big box stores—if you have a big job. But if you’re looking to support local businesses while patching up the homestead, there are plenty of neighborhood shops to visit. Most of these places have all the necessities, from a full paint department to key-making and tool-sharpening, and the ones south of 50th Street even sell live bait.
Every place I went to, I was almost immediately greeted with an offer of help—which means you can get what you need and get out before your young companion gets too bored. You and your child may not know exactly what to expect there, unlike with the big chains…but that’s what I’m here for.
Bayer’s Do it Best
4312 Upton Avenue South
This Linden Hills fixture dates back to 1923, and its compact footprint reflects as much. Still, there is a surprisingly comprehensive selection of supplies crammed into a small space, including the plumbing supplies in the basement (watch your head). My six-year-old Max always insists on coming along, probably because of the machine on the front counter that dispenses free popcorn.
Settergren Ace Hardware
5405 Penn Avenue South
In the warmer months you’ll see goods spread out for half a city block in front of this relatively sprawling Armatage site, as if to make Southwesterners think twice about that superstore in Bloomington that they’re heading to. And if you don’t mind a lack of off-street parking, it’s a good bet they’ll have what you were on your way to get anyway, as long as you weren’t going to need a truck to carry it. Settergren also has a popcorn machine (further in the back), and two dogs, although they might not both be on duty. You may need to call on one if your little one wanders off in the maze of aisles.
3805 Nicollet Avenue
I overheard another visitor on her cell phone claiming she was calling from “the world’s largest Ace Hardware,” and while that’s probably an exaggeration, it must certainly be the largest in Kingfield. The spacious parking lot, front porch, and sales floor might almost convince you that you’re in the suburbs after all, and there’s even some room for building supplies, if you’re not yet up for baby’s first trip to the lumberyard.
4602 Bryant Avenue South
A mellow, friendly Bishon Frise might be the first to welcome your family into this Lynnhurst shop. If your child is of the grabby variety, be wary of the long, narrow aisles, which seem to put goods within reach on both sides at the same time. Bring cash if you’re only getting one thing; there’s a $5.00 minimum on credit card transactions.
818 West 36th Street
If you’re in the mood to give your child a history lesson, driving up to and walking through this vintage storefront in East Harriet is almost like going back in time. This is your old-school neighborhood hardware shop, with domestic and household goods occupying plenty of the severely limited space. Still, if they don’t have room to stock everything, they’ll order it for you at no extra charge.
Sure, most of us just go to the nearest hardware store when we need something, but it's nice to have other options. If you're like me, any but the smallest projects will require two or three trips, and it's nice to have other options to avoid the embarrassment of seeing the same cashier several times in one day.