The 12-foot-long storefront sign for Edgartown Hardware came down on Tuesday afternoon. A small group assembled in front of the store to witness the retirement of the sign on a quiet midwinter day when few people were out and about on Main street. Work crews moving boxes from the old store into a waiting truck stopped and looked up as the sign came down.
Pat Montes, who owns Edgartown Hardware with her husband, John, was among those gathered. She stood beside a tree and watched. Thomas DeMont, the owner of Edgartown Scrimshaw, came out of his store next door. Main street traffic — what there was of it — slowed. Store manager Jonathan Polley stood high on a ladder and carefully took the sign down. The sign and others before it had graced the 1912 building since the end of World War II. Edgartown Hardware first opened in 1946.
Now the store is moving to a renovated space that formerly housed a car dealership on the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.
And Main street Edgartown will be a different place.
On Tuesday anxious but tired employees were hard at work at the new store on the outskirts of town opposite the Edgartown School, sorting through boxes and stocking shelves.
John Montes was there, overseeing the transformation of a cavernous empty space to a store stocked with appliances, batteries, garden tools, light bulbs, screwdrivers, oil, clam baskets and candles.
The Montes are entering their tenth year as owners. The first owner was the late Lauress Fisher, who started the hardware store with $400 in the bank at a time when Main street hosted three grocery stores, two drug stores, clothing stores and a post office.
Mr. Polley remembers working for — and learning from — Mr. Fisher when he began as a clerk 20 years ago.
Preparations for the move have gone on for months, and last Friday the store closed for a week while the owners complete the move. The new store will open on Monday morning at 7:30.
Steve Ewing, an Edgartown resident who owns a dock repair business, was the last customer at the Main street location.
“I bought a pair of scallop gloves. It is the best place to get those rubber insulated gloves, for $11.99. I go through a pair a week, working on the docks. I also bought a door mat for $12.95 for my laundry room,” Mr. Ewing said.
“I don’t know if I will ever find their other store,” he said, recalling earlier days on Main street. “This move is a big thing, this is a knife in the heart of the town — having them move out of the center of town. I work on the water. I am self-centered. Years ago you could pretty much walk to wherever you needed to buy something. There was Colter’s Garage, Norton and Estabrook. You could always get the bolt you forgot. There is the coffee shop right there. Now all that is gone,” Mr. Ewing said.
Nevertheless, he said he believes the move is definitely in the store’s best interest.
Standing amid a jumble of boxes of cans of paint on Wednesday morning, Mr. Montes said the idea of moving off Main street took root about six years ago, when he began to look for a different location. “At some point we looked at the business. While looking to the future you look at the space and you look at the parking. It became important to us that if we are to remain a viable long-term business, we had to do something,” Mr. Montes said.
He met with the owner of the former Old Colony building, but the timing wasn’t right for either of them.
Then after further talks, Mr. Montes said: “We finally came to terms last May.”
In July the Edgartown zoning board of appeals approved the move to the new location amid heartfelt but resigned expressions about the loss of a Main street institution.
Earlier this week, the old store was finally bare; pegboard walls were blank spaces and a room that was once stacked high with plumbing supplies stood empty.
Mr. Polley said while moving store employees found a sandpaper selection chart that had been printed in the 1960s and a price schedule for cut glass dating to the 1950s, when a pane of glass cost a dollar.
Instead of pegboard, the new location has steel shelves and wide-spaced aisles. The floor is solid concrete and doesn’t creak.
But even old-timers agree that the move makes sense, including Edgartown native Laurence A. Mercier, whose parents ran Mercier’s Market on Main street for many years.
“This is a good move for Edgartown Hardware and a good use for the Old Colony,” Mr. Mercier said. “Edgartown Main street is now virtually dead in the winter. There is no winter business on the street. This is unfortunate . . . [but] everybody wants to get in their car and drive to the front door of a store and buy what they need.”
Meanwhile Mr. Montes said at the new store the old Edgartown Hardware Store sign will be retired and hung on an interior wall next to the Amity Hardware sign, a relic from when the movie Jaws was filmed on the Vineyard.
And Edgartown Hardware will get a new sign to match its new location.