Kent Hardware closes after 115 years of service

Cody Francis

Owners refocus on another store

Kent Hardware owner Wayne Demmer stands by the front counter and assists customers on Saturday afternoon during the store’s last day of regular business. Rachel Kilroy | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Dorothy Meyer, a resident of Kent for 69 years, has gone to Kent Hardware for her home-repair and maintenance needs for as long as she can remember.

After Saturday, her memory of shopping there will be all she has left. The local hardware store on South Water Street went out of business after 115 years of service to the city of Kent.

Wayne Demmer and his family have owned and operated Kent Hardware since the early 1970s and said they are closing the business for personal and financial reasons. The Demmers own another hardware store, Demmer Hardware Inc. in Massillon, and decided to focus on operating that business. He said closing the doors on the local store wasn’t an easy choice to make.

“The hardest thing about it is saying goodbye to people who are not just customers, but friends,” Demmer said. “Merchandise is merchandise, but people are unique.”

Meyer said she felt more than welcome by the Demmers and their employees every time she visited the store.

“I’ve been going there a long time and never (had) a complaint,” she said. “They treat you like family.”

The city of Kent bought the Kent Hardware property in October 2007 for $340,000, said Dan Smith, economic development director for the city of Kent. Smith said the hardware store is on the block of property the city is trying to redevelop. Although the city has owned the property for almost two years, Smith said there were no immediate plans for Kent Hardware to go out of business.

The city, along with Kent State, owns about 90 percent of the property on the redevelopment block. Smith said the plans for the property include a hotel conference center, a new courthouse and new retail and office spaces.

“The city hopes to have a development agreement signed this fall and demolition and construction started by early next year,” Smith said.

On a personal and historic level, Smith said the city will miss the presence of the local business.

“We’re losing some long-time friends who’ve been part of the community for a long time,” he said. “The Demmers were great local business operators, and Kent benefited from their store being located on Water Street.”

This marks the second closing of a local hardware store since 2008. Paul’s Do-It Center went out of business in April 2008. Smith said the current economy makes the business model of a local hardware store a tough one.

“Competition from places like Lowe’s and Home Depot make it tough for an individual operator to make a return on investment,” he said.

Meyer couldn’t agree more.

“Those were the good old days in Kent – when we could shop here. But the shopping centers have ruined all of this and taken it away.”

However, Meyer said she wouldn’t let that ruin her history with Kent Hardware.

“My memory isn’t that great anymore, but I will always have good memories of (Kent Hardware),” she said. “They took care of us very well.”

Demmer said Kent Hardware will have a liquidation sale beginning today that will probably run into mid-September.

Contact editor Cody Francis at [email protected].