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After Nearly a Century, St. Matthew’s Hardware Saying Goodbye

St.+Matthews+Hardware+is+going+out+of+business+May+31.+Owner+Mr.+Pete+Hammer%27s+father%2C+George%2C+bought+the+store+in+1960.+
St. Matthews Hardware is going out of business May 31. Owner Mr. Pete Hammer's father, George, bought the store in 1960.

St. Matthews Hardware is going out of business May 31. Owner Mr. Pete Hammer's father, George, bought the store in 1960.

photos by Robert Davis, Editor in Chief

photos by Robert Davis, Editor in Chief

St. Matthews Hardware is going out of business May 31. Owner Mr. Pete Hammer's father, George, bought the store in 1960.

Hunter Mulloy, Editor in Chief

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St. Matthews is full of stories, history and wonders. Deep within that mixture for the past 100 years lies St. Matthews Hardware. That will change when the store closes for good on May 31. It will be replaced with an Independence Bank.

“Well, basically, it’s time. I’m going to be 64 this year, and I got a lot of offers at once, so I chose one. Also, my wife wants me to retire,” said Pete Hammer, owner of the store and a 1972 Trinity graduate.

The store means a great deal to the St. Matthews community, and Pete had to decide what business would replace the hardware store.   

I don’t know how much people are going to miss this place, but I do know it’s going to hurt because the people here are like family. First, they were customers. Next, they become your friends and you learn their names. Then you learn their children’s names. If I go to any house in St. Matthews, I can tell you where the bathroom is.”

— St. Matthews Hardware owner Pete Hammer

Pete said, “What are the odds of five people wanting this place? Most people only get five (offers) in their lifetime. At one point, I was going to sell this to a person who wanted to turn the store into a tavern, but I went with Independence Bank.”

St. Matthews Hardware has been around since 1921 (the original store opened by George Wurster). George Hammer, Pete’s father, worked there for 20 years before buying the store in 1960.

John Babcock, a lifelong friend of the Hammer family and brother-in-law to Pete, said, “It has changed over the years. When George (Hammer) owned it, it was a grocery store at first, but he later converted to a hardware store. Since then, the St. Matthews community has built around it due to the flood of ’36 (the flood that destroyed large parts of Louisville).”

The store and the Hammer family have a long, rich history. Pete started working at the store when he was 10.  He said, “Basically, my dad put me to work, grunt work mostly such as learning the names and prices of the items in the store. You never learn them all, though, but I did learn every day. I worked after school, Saturdays and Sundays. I even worked while I was in college at Jefferson Community.”

George owned the store until 1980, when he got too ill to run the business. That’s when the store was handed down to Pete. “My father was ill, and my two sisters and brother did not want to take over the business, so I felt obligated to take it over.” But who is this man who has brought St. Matthews such joy?

Pete is a hardworking man who has spent his life making his business prosper. This has not gone unnoticed.

Andy Dixon, one of Pete’s employees for eight years, had this to say about him: “Pete is tall, thin, and he can read to you anything in the store. He is also a good businessman and a family guy, even though he won’t admit it.”

Alex Henry, another employee of Pete’s for 26 years, had this to say: “Pete is always here when I need him. That’s why I’m here until the end. Pete is a good guy to work for.”

Over the years, Pete and his co-workers have seen a vast number of strange things.

Henry said he has seen “the whole spectrum” while working at the store. He said, “It’s turned into a dang career. I needed a job when I first started here, and now it’s turned into half my life. You experience everything in 26 years. I have gotten into yelling matches with customers in the back to getting tipped $100. There was even the time the 7-Up machine caught on fire. The circuit was overloaded, and it blew up. I got here just as the fire department was going to tear down my store.”

Dixon said, “It’s been a fine place to work. I have a funny story, though. Summer before last, a lady came in here on a hot day, probably 95, and she walked in the back door and walked under the air conditioner and said, ‘Is this where sanity lives?’ We all laughed and Alex went out the back door and said, ‘No, it left in ’64.'”

The store greatly impacted these men’s lives and the community around it. Dixon said, “It’s a local landmark with 96 years of tradition. It’s a toy store for adults. When I become widowed, this place gave me something to do.”

Pete said, “It’s a family-owned store. It was the go-to hardware store. A lot of Trinity teachers come here — (Trinity) president (Dr.) Mullen, he loves this store. This place was the central place for gossip. It’s nice to have class reunions, but I have them every day. The communication gets stronger and larger here because my class, ’72, had 225 students. About 160 to 170 of them have come through the store to buy stuff and catch up. It’s a market for getting information out.

“I don’t know how much people are going to miss this place, but I do know it’s going to hurt because the people here are like family. First, they were customers. Next, they become your friends and you learn their names. Then you learn their children’s names. If I go to any house in St. Matthews, I can tell you where the bathroom is.”

It has been a good 96 years for St. Matthews Hardware.

 

photos by Robert Davis, Editor in Chief

St. Matthews Hardware is going out of business May 31. Owner Mr. Pete Hammer's father, George, bought the store in 1960.

 

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After Nearly a Century, St. Matthew’s Hardware Saying Goodbye