When oil barrels at Hampton Leedom Hardware exploded, Elias Edge was out of a job. It was 1916 and the Henry Street shop was left in ruins.
But it wasn’t long before Edge bounced back, setting up a hardware store in Fairview in 1917. Next week will mark the centenary of Edge & Sons Hardware.
As Beverly Edge, fourth generation, tells it, the store “has the same old wooden floors and the same smell” as it did one hundred years ago.
Owner Victor Edge was adamant that there shouldn’t be a fuss around the business’s birthday, but his daughter Beverly had other ideas.
She hit the history books, strung together family photographs, gathered up old artefacts from inside the store, and got to work on the window display.
The current mini-exhibition is a celebration of what some see as a Fairview institution. It’s also a tribute to Elias and to those who continued the business through all these years.
“There’s not that many around anymore,” Beverly says. “With all the Woodies and B&Qs, it’s good to have somewhere you can still go in and buy four screws.”
There are Oxo tins, outdated maps and other bric-a-brac behind the store’s windows, which also show some of the old family photographs collected by Edge and dropped in by locals.
As she put it together, Edge learned of the lion who escaped in Fairview back in 1951, of her great-grandfather’s explosive misfortune, and found a 1950s newspaper clipping reporting the theft of £10 from the hardware store.
An old black bike that takes pride of place was cycled around the area by the Edge family in the 1960s to deliver oil to locals.
“More and more people have brought stuff down, so it’s quite nice in that way,” she says. “It’s very much a local effort. As people see more stuff, they bring it down to put in the window.”
Her father, Victor, is shy. He took over the shop when he was just 16 years old, after his father Elias Edge Jnr died suddenly.
Victor, in turn, enlisted the help of his children in running the hardware down the decades. “I worked there since I was about 10,” says Beverly. “I used to go in on Saturday mornings. Really my happiest was when I was working with my dad.”
Beverly no longer works in the hardware store. But, like Peigi Whelan Cunningham, she knows its importance to locals.
Cunningham, who lives in the area, says she wants it bottled.
The smell that is, a mixture of wood, brass cleaner and paraffin oil. “It’s incredible,” she says. “It’s the most wonderful smell. It’s a mixture of the smell of the old wood of the floor and all the products.”
Cunningham says that Edge & Sons is more than the sum of its parts.
“Myself and my sister and a friend of ours actually set up a Facebook page called Edges Hardware Appreciation Society because we were so mad about the shop,” says Cunningham. “Loads of people joined it. It’s a real centre in the community.”
(The online group has 213 members.)
What you need from you local hardware store, she says, is patient professionalism and you get that from Victor Edge.
“You could go in and ask a really stupid question. He’s really good at explaining things and he never makes you feel like a fool. But I think he’s bemused by the whole Facebook page,” she says.
Fairview hasn’t always been the best place to have a business, says Damien Duggan, a local jeweller. But the hardware store has been a constant.
“It’s probably the anchor for the whole village,” says Duggan, who has known the Edge family for 37 years. “There is a real village atmosphere in Fairview now that was missing for quite a while. Edge’s is there so long, though.”
Regular customers in and around Fairview have been asking Duggan what the plans for the centenary are. “Victor told me no fuss, no nothing,” says Duggan. “But his customers want to do it so I told him ‘It’s not about you, it’s about them.’ But he’s a wonderful man.”
Beverly Edge agrees.
Her father may be a reluctant participant in this local fanfare, but her centenary exhibition is one small way of showing her appreciation – and the community’s, she says. “He’d fix anything for anyone and charge nothing for it.”