HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - "I can't wait to get out here in the mornings because there's always something going on -- there's action here." Donald Lewter considers himself a very lucky man. He's retired from Lewter Hardware, but stops in daily to check things out.
Lewter Hardware has been a staple in Huntsville's downtown for nearly a century.
"My Grandfather,1915 or so, he worked here for a gentleman -- and then, my dad took his place and bought Mr. Robinson out," said Lewter.
That was back in 1928. Five generations later not much has changed. which is why this place is so special.
"We carry about 50,000 items, really, that a sensible hardware merchant wouldn't fool with."
Hardware supplies from the 20s, 30s and 40s. "If they still make it, we still keep it," said Lewter. "They don't carry much of this type of thing anymore."
He's talking about the big box stores. "They're good at presenting their merchandise, they have big items and good prices, no doubt about it, but if you've got a question-- they might answer the first question, they'll never get the follow-up question and bail you out."
And that's his specialty. "People like it and we figure it's a people business more than an item business," said Lewter.
A motto that makes them stand out, in a market saturated with big-box stores. "May that never change because that was the tradition. As my father used to say, when a customer comes through that door he's a friend."
And maybe that's why they were featured in this month's issue of Popular Mechanics as one of the best hardware stores in America. Or maybe it was because of the "little touches" as Donald calls them. "Free peanuts and store cats."
Either Way: You may walk into Lewter Hardware a stranger, but you walk out as a friend.