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Dying Breed : In Era of Specialists, Avenue Hardware Still Promises Something for Everyone

May 12, 1988|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

Ventura Avenue is not peaches-and-cream but nuts-and-bolts, and its soul can be found at venerable Avenue Hardware.

Whether it's Shell Oil Co. looking for 1,000 feet of pipe or a neighborhood housewife in search of a cookie cutter, Avenue Hardware probably has it somewhere on a shelf, or in a drawer, or hanging from the ceiling.

"We're a dying breed," said Tad Dewire, whose grandfather bought the store in 1945. "We try to carry a little something for everybody."

Along with the requisite hammers and nails, the store stocks such necessities as small-game traps, canvas water bags, cast-iron frying pans, grocery carts, rubber boots, gold-panning sluices, old-time washboards, cigar-sized screws, casement-window cranks, table legs and hard hats.

"You can't sell from an empty wagon," said Buz Bafford, who has spent the last dozen years helping customers with hard-to-find items.

The majority of those customers come from the Avenue's industrial side, where finding an odd-shaped tool or the right-sized washer is what keeps the oil business flowing. Others venture by after discovering that a giant home-improvement store doesn't stock a needed part.

"They say, 'If you can't find it here, you might as well not look for it,"' chimed in Todd Marks, who has worked at the store for a year.

Should anyone come asking for fix-it advice, know-how is shared free. Should one of the employees get stumped, other customers with expertise are invited to pitch in.

"We'll improvise," Bafford said.

Many longtime customers say that folksy approach and jumble of products is what makes the Avenue tick.

"It's just a good homey feeling they give you," said Dave Bailey of Ventura, who was in the other day just to buy some light bulbs. "It's like walking into your very own hardware store."

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