I was saddened to learn that Rohs Hardware store will close at the end of the year. I do not think this was inevitable, and however unlikely, I would even hope that maybe someone could try to reopen it. I don't know the details, but the building is being sold to 3CDC or one of their development parnters.
The owner, Al Rohs was one of the first people I met when I came to this neighborhood. He is steeped in knowledge about hardware and repairs of all kinds. He is one of those people you see all the time, but don't really know him on a personal level. Through the years I learned a little about him, such as that he sings in a choir and I've met some people in his family, but mostly we know him as a good proprietor of a neccessary store and place that everyone must visit from time to time.
He has worked at the store for 62 years. Let that sink in for a minute. He has worked in this store for over six decades! His father owned and operated the store before him, and they worked together when Al was young. And did anyone ever say thank you? Did the community ever acknowledge him the same way they do new businesses?
My memories of Al, and the store are of him and two clerks (David and Darrel especially): Six days a week, from 7:30 to 6pm, they would be constantly moving around cutting keys, cutting glass, mixing paint, selling fishing lures, selling fishing licenses, advising which method shold be used to unclog a sink or how to repair an old gas stove, recommending pesticides, selling rock salt, selling snow shovels, selling tons of box fans and window air conditioners in the summer and space heaters in the winter. They would sell the portable gas space heaters that are no longer used and the hard to find parts to service them. They would sell heat tape to keep pipes from freezing. They would re-glaze an old wooden sash. They would cut black iron pipe to length and thread the end. They sold propane tanks for soldering, they sold light bulbs, dish soap, bed bug powder, deadbolts, 2by4s, sand mix, different sizes of ropes and chains cut to length, tile grout, pocket knives, electrical outlets and switches, copper fittings, radiator repair kits, engine oil, every grit of sandpaper, steel wool, tire repair kits, granny carts, extension ladders, step ladders, drop cloths, furnace filters, pvc fittings, faucets, drains, drain cleaner, snakes, paint brushes, rollers, power tools, garbage cans, work gloves, dust masks, goggles, padlocks, eyes and hooks, toilets, rubber washers, toilet repair kits, toilet seats, pipe cutters, bolt cutters, box knifes, WD-40, 3 in 1 oil, graphite, address numbers, crowbars, wrenches, hoses, light fixtures, and every kind of screw, nut or nail imaginable.
And all this he did, for 62 years, in a space about the size of some people's living rooms. He did it when Vine Street was known as a place to get a cheap drink. He did it when Vine Street had muggings and drive-by shootings. He did it through the riots. He did it through all that, but cannot do it with all the new development around him. Business has been slow at Rohs during recent years. The neighborhood has been changing. Two-way Vine hurt him a bit. His delivery trucks couldn't double park and he lost a parking space. Then there was all this construction around him, and the contractors working now aren't buying just two screws at a time, or one gallon of paint at a time. The contractors rarely if ever bought from him. Some people believe that the new developers wanted to drive him out. I don't believe that, but there is no question that they could have done much more to help his business. And as the buildings get finished so that they are like new, there is less repair work needed on them. There are also less people, less renters, less slumlords. Certainly less people who need bolt locks, screen repairs and roach powder.
I don't know if Al would ever read this, but I would like to thank Al for his hard work and his helpfulness to me and to our neighbors all these years. He is a good man and I hope he has a well-deserved rest. It will be sad to be in this neighborhood without our most everyday, most dependable neighbor.