By Lorry Myers
As a young girl, I remember walking into the store and up to the payment window with my mother. My parents bought all their appliances from our local hardware store because they financed it for them and serviced what they sold. My family also bought their bicycles and
lawnmowers and fittings for a leaky faucet, Ritchie and Sons True Value Hardware had it all.
The Ritchie family has been in the hardware business since buggies ruled the road. Generations of Ritchie children and grandchildren swept floors and stocked shelves and expanded the store to serve two communities. For five generations, the Ritchies sold nuts and bolts, paint and parts, and if they didn’t have it, it would arrive in a week. The stores hired kids in the summer and sent people you knew to your house for appliance repairs. You would see Bob and George and David in church and in the bleachers and in the grocery store. They served on Chamber committees and coached ball teams and volunteered at church. Over the years the Ritchie family donated to countless fundraisers and organizations and community projects.
Quietly giving in ways that has nothing to do with money.
Ritchie and Sons product line changed from buggy parts to barbeque grills and ice boxes to ice makers so they partnered with the True Value brand because they delivered whatever the public wanted on a truck every week. Not so long ago, there were seven surrounding Mid-Missouri towns fortunate enough to have stores like Ritchie Hardware that proudly displayed the True Value sign.
Now, Ritchie and Sons Hardware is the only one left.
Recession came and times changed and competition moved in. Big box stores and big brands created a big shift in a small-town business. Two-day delivery and free returns and the availability of buying anything with a click changed shopping habits. Every time wages or insurance increased, so did the Ritchie family’s determination. They slimmed down, they cut back, they tried to keep the competition at bay.
think you know how this story ends.
When the Ritchie family announced the closing of their Centralia location, it sent a rumble through my hometown. Some were shocked, some were not and some will never understand the true impact of this loss. There were ripples of sadness and concern about the future of our downtown and the empty building a closed business leaves behind. People we know will lose their jobs, a city will lose those taxes, and a community will lose the generosity of a respected family.
So, ask yourself this…
For the complete article, see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard