NOW:53207:USA00949
http://widgets.journalinteractive.com/cache/JIResponseCacher.ashx?duration=5&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdata.wp.myweather.net%2FeWxII%2F%3Fdata%3D*USA00949
60°
H 60° L 53°
Clear | 7MPH

End of tool time

Hardware shop will close after 100 years

Sept. 6, 2007

Dave Gittins is seriously considering getting a T-shirt made that says, "We don't have it." He's just getting tired of saying it to the occasional customer who comes through the door at Strehlow's True Value Hardware, 2675 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Few customers seem to notice the black-and-white "going out of business" sign in the window, Gittins said. They do, however, see the sign that announces a 50-percent-off sale.

Some merchandise is still left on the shelves of the store that has been a fixture in downtown Bay View since 1908. There's a box of fluorescent lighting tubes, a few pails of paint, and miscellaneous gizmos and gadgets only a handyman could appreciate.

But now even the shelves are coming down. Behind those shelves is a lot of history.

Peeling away past lives

Assorted vintage soda bottles and a stash of old newspapers, one dating back to 1942, have been unearthed. On a wall in the back of the store, another remnant of the past is scrawled in black handwriting: "Poultry netting, 2-inch mesh, 1 cent per square foot" and "Gates $2.50."

A horseshoe nailed to the wall is covered in rust.

High above the aisles, an antique metal ceiling is still intact. Gittins said he believes it is made of copper. Most of it was painted white some time ago, but part of it has been restored with expensive copper paint, applied carefully with a brush until it glowed.

A timeworn ladder on rollers stretches from floor to ceiling. Behind it are cabinets containing hundreds of small drawers that once stored particular parts and supplies. Most are now labeled "MT." Empty.

The drawers were handmade of sheet metal and wood, Gittins said, pulling one out as evidence.

"Lots of people want to buy those," he said, nodding toward the cabinets.

The metal in the drawers probably came from the shed behind Strehlow's, where, Gittins said, Bay View Sheet Metal got started many years ago.

Gittins said Strehlow's was a wallpaper store before it was a hardware store. Traces of that establishment can still be found, too. On a wall behind of one of the cabinets, a piece of Victorian-era wallpaper is fading slowly away.

The jewel of the store sits on its back counter. It is a Detroit-model scale, dating back to the early 1900s.

Gittins said the scale was used to weigh grass seed when it was sold in bulk and nails that were sold by the pound, or even the ounce. At Strehlow's, it was possible to buy one or two nails at a time.

The scale is still functional and is certified accurate.

"The guy who came to certify it said it's more accurate than an electronic scale," Gittins added.

Perfect parts for old homes

In the course of an hour on a Saturday afternoon, just three customers came into the store. A young couple was in search of a certain shade of paint.

"Sorry, we don't have it," Gittins told them.

Linda Ditelo of Bay View stopped in with her granddaughter to pick up a screen she needed repaired. She said she is sorry to see Strehlow's close its doors.

"It's been here for so many years," Ditelo said. "I don't want to see it go, but what are you gonna do?"

Many Strehlow's customers frequented the store because they were able to purchase hardware and plumbing parts to repair older homes, Gittins said. They also were able to get reliable advice on how to use those parts.

"People would ask you a question and they'd get an answer," Gittins said.

Toll of neighborhood change

Modern life has taken its toll on the store's customer base. For one thing, Gittins said, the mix of businesses on South Kinnickinnic Avenue has changed dramatically. A dry cleaning business and a bakery, for example, used to support foot traffic, but they are gone.

"If we were next to Home Depot, we'd probably make out like a bandit," Gittins said.

The mix of boutiques and restaurants does not attract hardware customers, he said.

"Parking is another problem," Gittins added. "People nowadays, if they can't park right in front of the business, they just take off."

Gittins said the store has seen several owners over its nearly 100-year history, but the name remained the same because nobody wanted to change the signs. He said he is not sure what will become of the building now.

With no customers in sight, Gittins stepped out of the store and stood on the front steps, just under the Strehlow's True Value sign. It reads, "Right tools. Local advice. Right here."

But not for long.

This site uses Facebook comments to make it easier for you to contribute. If you see a comment you would like to flag for spam or abuse, click the "x" in the upper right of it. By posting, you agree to our Terms of Use.

Suburban News Roundup

E-mail Newsletter

Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.


Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter
Get the Newsletter!

Login or Register to manage all your newsletter preferences.

Community Watch

» Preps football photos of the week: Sept. 19 9/19

» Oak Creek football team beats Franklin with big plays, 20-12 9/19

» Cookout, football game to follow Greendale Homecoming Parade 9/19

» Greendale sets meetings for downtown development plan 9/18

» Greendale Village Board shifts opinion, approves funding for Hose Tower completion 9/16

» United Church of Christ leader to deliver Milwaukee sermon 9/16

» Poll: Will Franklin or Oak Creek win in Week 5 matchup? 9/16

» Greendale officials to look at TIF option for redeveloping apartment complex 9/15

» Oak Creek Knights stadium available Saturdays for open track 9/15

» Franklin Educational Foundation to hold beer-tasting "Cheers to Education" event Oct. 17 9/15

» Preps football photos of the week: Sept. 12 9/12

» Greendale trustees to hold special meeting for Hose Tower discussion 9/12

» Resident injured after falling down stairs with oil poured on them 9/12

» Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – Franklin to host Family Health Night 9/10

» Scurry over to Wehr Nature Center on Sunday for bug day 9/10

» 'Worst road in Oak Creek' finally sees interim work 9/9

» Suzy's Cream Cheesecakes expands operations to Oak Creek 9/9

» Milwaukee man charged with homicide in car chase ending in shooting 9/9

» Video: Franklin crews clean up overturned truck site 9/9

» BREAKING: Truck overturns on W. Loomis and W. Drexel 9/9

» Franklin, Greendale receive "Schools of Recognition" awards by DPI 9/8

» Preps football photos of the week: Sept. 5 9/7

» Indian Trail haunts Knights once again 9/6

» Greendale rings Pewaukee's bell 9/5

» MLB legend Lou Brock to discuss diabetes management at The Rock 9/4

View All Posts Got a tip? Welcome rss

Local Business Directory

Advertisement

Deal Watch - Milwaukee

Milwaukee's Best Discounts & Deals

CONNECT