The difficult economy has knocked out many businesses in Kings Park: American Beauty Florist, the .99 Cent Store and Gasparro’s Pizzeria are among the most recent examples of businesses that have closed shop.
Yet Tony Tanzi thinks he can be the exception.
Tanzi this year opened the Kings Park Hardware Company in the space once occupied by big-name recession casualty, Blockbuster Video.
“We got the sense that the market is kind of changing and people are tired of shopping at the big boxes,” said Tanzi. "People want to get back to shopping local."
Count past civic president Frank Mercuri among them. He welcomes the store and the short commute. He had hoped that a small hardware store would come to town.
"My wish did come true and I do not have to travel to ACE or Home Depot for there is now a store that will serve me and the community as it did all those past years," said Mercuri.
For many Kings Parkers, the Kings Park Hardware Company brings a sense of nostalgia.
The store, which opened shortly after Memorial Day, is operating in the nearby footprint of what was once Tanzi Lumber, a business run for generations by the Tanzi family.
“We got the sense that the market is kind of changing and people are tired of shopping at the big boxes.”
In those days the smell of cigars would tinge the air, as Tanzi’s uncles would puff while they worked.
“There is a no smoking policy now,” Tanzi joked. “It feels good. Old contacts come in from back when.”
Tanzi is hopeful.
“Sooner or later Kings Park is going to come back. We thought we could make it in a downturned economy.”
Tanzi said he was ready to start up again and offer Kings Parkers a place they could shop for home improvement goods without the crowds and with a strong emphasis on service.
“We are hiring all local people. Money spent in Kings Park stays in Kings Park,” said Tanzi.
Service was indeed a priority for the store, which was open throughout much of the blackout following Hurricane Irene. Operating off a generator and calculators instead of cash registers, locals were able to stop in for batteries and the few remaining storm supplies the store had left.
While service is what usually sets the smaller competitors apart from the big boxes, higher pricing can sometimes be a deciding factor for a customer in a tough economy.
Tanzi thinks people are looking for a better experience and are getting away from the idea that bigger is better.
He may be right. Big box bookstore Borders recently shut its door and other big box retailers are sensing the trend that bigger isn’t always better.
According to a report on AOL’s Daily Finance many of retail's giants are looking to operate in a smaller footprint to seem more approachable than the current anchor-store behemoths they operate in suburbia.
To compete with retail giants, Tanzi says that his store is part of a cooperative buying system through Do It Yourself Hardware, which allows the small stores to buy in bulk, much like the big box stores, to offer competitive pricing with the bigger chains.
“We have access to a shared distribution center which holds thousands of items.
Customers can come in and search our computer for most any item. It is then shipped directly to the store where the customer can come pick it up,” said Tanzi.
The store is part of Tanzi Plaza, which, of course is owned by Tanzi. However, Tanzi chose not to rent the space out again, but instead decided to re-visit the family business.
“We own the property and we were marketing the space and seeing no sign of interest in it. If it is sitting empty it is not doing anything for us,” said Tanzi.
Kings Park Civic Association President, Sean Lehmann said back in April that the store was a welcome addition to the community.
“I know Mr. Tanzi was trying to bring a much-needed hardware store back to Kings Park. I'm glad to see it finally happen,” said Lehman.
The store will have its official grand opening on October 22.
You can find more articles from this ongoing series, “You can find more articles from this ongoing series, “Dispatches: The Changing Amerian Dream” from across the country at The Huffington Post."