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73 winters and counting: Old Brooklyn hardware store ready to meet winter storm demand

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Posted at 5:29 PM, Feb 01, 2022

CLEVELAND — With the second major winter storm in as many weeks baring down on Northeast Ohio, hardware and grocery stores are trying to keep up with the overwhelming surge in demand. However, South Hills Hardware in Old Brooklyn is prepared — just as it has been since the late 1940s.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Cleveland metro area is projected to receive up to a foot of snow beginning late Wednesday and continuing through late Thursday or into Friday morning. Some parts of Northeast Ohio may receive disruptive levels of ice and freezing rain as well. In advance of the looming winter storm, shoppers have flocked to retailers to stock up for the disruptive week ahead.

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With more than 70 winters under the store’s belt, experience is a critical ally for the Wygonski family, which has owned and operated South Hills Hardware since the late 1940s.

“That’s a lot of winters and a lot of springs. We’re very seasonal so these snowstorms — while they’re crazy — it’s a busy time for us,” said Stefan Wygonski, the assistant sales manager. “There’s a lot of history with the business in our family.”

The hardware store, which is located off East Schaff and Old Brookpark roads near Cleveland’s border with Brooklyn Heights, typically receives its truck of new stock on Tuesday mornings. This shipment couldn’t have come at a better time.

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“It has been insane. Everyone needs a snow shovel, rock salt, and snow brushes,” Wygonski said. “Everyone has been bringing in [snowblower] belts that have snapped in the thick snow and ice. We’ve repaired a lot of snowblowers.”

Wygonski said the winter storm arriving later this week has prompted more people to prepare ahead of time. The winter storm two weeks ago that dumped 15 inches of snow on Old Brooklyn, however, caught many people by surprise. As a result of that storm, South Hills Hardware sold off its stockpile of two years’ worth of snow shovels.

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“I would say that a lot of people realized they weren’t prepared before. We’ve seen a lot of people coming in these last few days saying, 'I’m not going to be caught without a bag a rock salt, a snow shovel.' Everyone is making sure they’re prepared, it seems because that last storm was pretty rough.”

Like any business, South Hills Hardware has had to work around product shortages and supply chain disruptions. Luckily, the business has been flexible by relying on the store’s long and close relationships with suppliers and distributors.

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“We’ve had a really good relationship with them for many years. They take care of us and we take care of them. We have different relationships with people to where we were able to get our hands on the rock salt and whatever else we’ve needed,” Wygonski said. “I’ve heard a lot of the [big retailers] have had problems keeping stuff on their shelves but we have managed to keep stuff on the shelves. We’ve been lucky. We haven’t run out yet.”