By Russ De Maris
When you’re a kid, and your eyes are big and wide, taking it all in, there are some things that just won’t ever change. One of them is Grampa. Bigger than life, full of fun, and a good lap to cuddle on – there’s nobody like Grampa. Life without Grampa would just be unimaginable. And for a kid, Grampa will always be there. Until something happens – and Grampa, bless him, isn’t there.
SAD NEWS IN QUARTZSITE
Now, that “something” looks to be happening in Quartzsite, Arizona. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a kid, kicking back on Grampa’s lap. But there’s always been a fixture like Grampa for me in Quartzsite, since the first time I ever landed in that desert berg in the winter of 1996. When the floor fell out of our truck camper’s bathroom, Herb’s Hardware was there.
That was the hardware store I took refuge in, buying up many feet of aircraft cable off the bulk reel; then there were turnbuckles and eyebolts from the hardware section. Yep, all sold to me with helpful advice, and with a bit of sweat, we got the old floor jacked up and supported long enough to make the run back to the Northwest where we could do permanent repairs. Couldn’t have done it without Herb’s.
Today I rolled into the parking lot and stopped in front of the big roll-up entry door. A sign over the bulk rolls of Reflectix announced, “20 percent off – All sales final.” Why on earth would they want to fire-sale Reflectix, I wondered. Until the wife pointed to the big banner over the roll-up door that I’d missed. “Store Closing. Everything must go!” It was like I’d just learned that Grampa was terminally ill.
Maybe Grampa has already succumbed. Inside, the vultures had already gathered. Empty bins in the bulk screw and nail area. Hanging hooks where I’d normally see tools – no tools – just the hooks. Out in the yard, a harassed yard guy chopped me off seven feet of inch-and-an-arf ABS pipe. All that he had left after I walked away was three feet. There would be no more – they’re not restocking anything.
My mind races back over the times that I’ve depended on that outfit. Broken pipes. Blown electrical issues. Countless RV remodel projects over the years. Fighting with crowds in the winter, and the heat in those short summer hours. But, hey, if you needed something – just about anything, it seemed – Herb’s was always just a few minutes away. I became the standing joke among the staffers. If my car or truck turned into the parking lot, it must be just about quitting time. If I showed up more than an hour before closing, there was mock confusion in the ranks.
It seems inconceivable to me that this bedrock institution is rolling up the sidewalk. Sure, the place has been “for sale” for a few years. A couple of deals came up – and went south for one reason or another. Those of us who’ve come to depend on a local shop with helpful staff always just figured, well, somebody’s gonna buy the place. But they didn’t. What’s the option? Keep going at the grind? Or put up a 20- percent-off sale and lock it down?
They tell me that they’ll be open until sometime in April. I don’t think so. The way the stock is vanishing out the big roll-up door, my guess is I’ll make my last pass down empty aisles in the next few weeks.
And like with Grampa, I’ll probably shed a few tears as I do.