Copyright © 1995, DAILY PRESS

Monday, June 12, 1995


Edition: Final
Section: Business
Page: B4
Dateline: HAMPTON
Illustration: Staff photos (b&w) by ADRIN SNIDER

A.W. Patrick Jr. talks to a customer on the telephone at W.T. Patrick and Sons Hardware in Hampton recently. Old medical remedies still sit on selected shelves at the 100-year-old store.

Walk into W.T. Patrick and Sons, and you won’t find a crowd of shoppers or need a map to find your way around. But you will find half-round guttering, washboards, a hog scraper and a calf weaner.
The hardware store, which celebrated its 100th year last March, is a family-owned business at 395 W. Queen St. in Hampton. It’s small enough to give customers individual service and large enough to sell them a variety of merchandise.

“We carry things other stores don’t carry,” says Carey Patrick, who runs the business with his cousin, A. Woodfin “Woody” Patrick Jr. Both are grandsons of the late William Tilden Patrick who founded the store in 1885. When the store opened, Patrick’s sold automobiles, medicine, groceries and clothing. Now the store sells more traditional hardware fare, such as tools, garden supplies, paint and electrical equipment.

Little has been done to the red-brick building since the store opened. A few fixtures and shelves have been added, but the old atmosphere remains intact. Customers walk across concrete and wood floors instead of tile or linoleum. The store has central heat but no air conditioning. Ceiling and floor fans keep the store cool. “You feel like you are in a hardware store when you walk in,” Carey Patrick said. Merchandise and other items saved from the store’s beginnings sit on wooden shelves at the front of the store. They include medicine bottles showing their high alcohol content, a Newport News city directory from 1920 and invoices and canceled checks from the 1930s. Grass seed sits in bins once filled with loose tea.

Much of the store’s appeal stems from its employees’ devotion to the business and to its customers, Patrick said. He said if a customer calls and needs a particular item when the regular driver is away, one of the employees will deliver the merchandise personally. “We treat customers the way we would want to be treated,” Patrick said. Competitive prices and loyal customers also allow Patrick’s to survive in an era of discount mega-stores such as HQ and Lowe’s, Patrick said.

Charlie King, 70, of Hampton says he has shopped at Patrick’s for about 40 years. He especially likes the store’s charge account. “I don’t need money when I need something,” King said.

Jim Morgan of Pembroke Construction Co. says his company has been dealing with Patrick’s for 45 years. Although Pembroke also uses other suppliers, he says, the Patrick’s staff is friendly and the atmosphere pleasant. “They are customer-oriented,” Morgan says. “It encourages people to come back.”

Like the customers, Patrick’s staff is also faithful to the business.

George Parker, one of seven current employees, says he has done all types of jobs – driving trucks, moving stock, mixing paint – in his 38 years with Patrick’s. “If you can name it, I did it,” said Parker, who raised six children while working at the store.

Despite, or perhaps because of, its success and longevity, Patrick’s has no plans for other locations. “It would be hard to duplicate what we have here,” Carey said. “We have been blessed.”

Some of the unusual merchandise at W.T.W.T. Patrick and Sons Hardware Store in Hampton:
* Half-round guttering: An old type of metal gutter available in few places on the Peninsula. It’s required on some homes in historic districts such as Newport News’ Hilton Village.
* Washboards: An old-fashioned device for cleaning clothes, it’s a grooved board to scrub clothes by hand. Popular with some college students who use it instead of going to the laundromat.
* Hog scraper: Scrapes hair off a hog’s hide.
* Calf weaner: A bovine-size baby bottle used to wean a calf away from its mother.

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