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Open for 165 years: Chagrin Hardware shares secrets of success

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Posted at 3:52 PM, Aug 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 18:15:26-04

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio — Older than 19 states, around for 36 U.S. presidents, and still standing in an era of wide aisles, next-day delivery and pallets of products is Chagrin Hardware.

The downtown Chagrin Falls staple is the oldest business in the village, first opening in 1857.

“Your big box store, they have a lot more product, but we’re able to get items where others can’t,” part-owner Steve Shutts said.

No need for a name tag for Steve Shutts; he's one of three full-time employees still carrying on this family legacy.

“I’m the youngest guy here and I've been here more than 40 years,” he said with a smile. “When you walk in here, you smell hardware.”

Shutts walked News 5 through the building, located at 82 N Main Street in Chagrin Falls, pointing out many of its quirks, including a working safe from the 1800s and a floor that twists and bends through the store’s narrow aisles.

“In the early 1900s this floor was part of a roller rink that was in the park next door,” he added. “So if you feel like skating, there’s a reason.”

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An antique photograph of Chagrin Hardware, now sold as a postcard.

The products inside the store check off the boxes for what one could find at a routine hardware store. However, it’s the other items, such as figurines, aging DVDs, and other slices of Americana that make the store a mecca for wandering eyes.

“One of the more interesting things we’ve had for over 60 years were these mechanical banks that were made after the Civil War,” brother and part-owner Jack Shutts said. “The old stuff was our mom’s idea.”

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Jack Shutts highlights some of the hard-to-find mechanical banks sold at the store for decades.

“We still don’t know where everything is after all these years,” Steve Shutts admitted. “We’ll open up a drawer and say ‘didn’t know we had that.’”

Maggie Nash makes up one of the part-timers who help keep the oldest business in Chagrin Falls in operation and has been working at the store for the past year.

“We kind of think of our store as a little museum,” she added.

Nash reflected on the joy she has working at a store she grew up visiting often, including her favorite display: a spinning octagon once filled with nails and screws of every shape and size.

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Part-time employee Maggie Nash reflects on the iconic equipment that still stands inside.

“Probably every single fingerprint minus five are mine because I used to sit her as a little girl and just spin this as fast as I could until their dad or my grandfather would yell at us,” she smiled, while wearing a t-shirt that read “I enjoy taking romantic walks through Chagrin Hardware.”

“I’ve brought many first dates here," she said. "Unfortunately, they didn’t stick around as long as this place did."

The store still operates with house accounts, allowing some customers to pool their purchases and pay at a later date. The receipts from some house accounts dating back to the early 1900s can be found inside the store.

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House accounts from the 1920's, still stored inside the building.

So too can the handwritten notes from 70 years ago, allowing children to purchase BBs for their BB guns with permission from their parents. Steve Shutts jokes he keeps the notes partially for entertainment, given some of the handwriting of parents can come off as questionable, at best.

“We’ve got customers we’ve known since they were five years old and now they have their own kids,” Jack Shutts added.

As for what makes this hardware and hodge-podge institution succeed in spite of modern technology, the family behind the store said experience and knowledge will continue to be the name of their game — decades of experience with no sign of slowing down.

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One of the many signs found inside Chagrin Hardware, which use humor to answer the secret of the store's longevity. This one dates back to 1992.

“The longer we work, the longer hopefully we’re going to live,” Jack Shutts explained. “I’ve got friends that have retired at 60 and two years later they pass away. It’s not fun working at 74 years old, but the activity I think prolongs the lifespan.”

“And of course my wife prefers me being here than home,” he added.