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The History of San Diego Hardware
                            Late in 1892, four San Diego citizens founded a new venture, which was to be called San Diego Hardware An article in the Dec. 1, 1892 edition of the San Diego Union, announced, “The San Diego Hardware Company has purchased the retail store of Todd & Hawley, 658 Fifth Street”.  The four founders
of the company were Fred Gazlay, John M. Wood, George M. Hawley and George T. Hawley.  All four men had previous experience in the hardware business.  Fred Gazlay had worked as a bookkeeper for Western Metal Supply and both Fred and John Wood had been with Hamilton Hardware for several years.  George M. Hawley and George T. Hawley were with the Todd & Hawley.

       The new store’s inventory is described in a San Diego Union article in January of 1893: “Besides carrying a full line of builders’ and shelf hardware, a complete new stock of gasoline and oil stoves for heating and cooking and a full line of agateware, galvanized ironware and tin ware has been added.”  From the same article comes the philosophy of doing business that has guided the company during more than 110 years of business: “The new firm will continue to carry a large and complete stock and endeavor by courteous treatment and honorable dealing to merit their share of public patronage.”  Courteous, friendly service and a wide selection of hard-to-find items is a tradition at San Diego Hardware.

       In those early days and until about 1999, San Diego Hardware sold a wide selection of typical and hard-to-find hardware store items.  Items found on the shelves in those days included: hog ring pliers, wash boards, pitcher pumps, broad axes, draw knives, clothes wringers, meat grinders, ice chippers, hand tools by the Stanley Tool Works, poultry netting, stove bolts, and much more.  In addition, San Diego Hardware sold and installed cast iron wood stoves, heaters and iceboxes.  In the basement was a workshop where a sheet metal worker would fabricate stovepipe and other items.  Deliveries were made to the customer by horse and wagon until the advent of the automobile in the early 1900’s.

       In 1922 the company moved closer to San Diego’s center of commerce.  The company moved two blocks North on Fifth Avenue to 840 Fifth Avenue.  The building had been occupied by the “five-and-dime” store F.W. Woolworth’s.  At the grand re-opening a newspaper article reported, “Tomorrow morning, what is said to be the finest and most beautiful hardware store on the Pacific coast- the new home of the San Diego Hardware Company – will be opened for business …”.  The new store had three entrances, a fifty-foot storefront on Fifth Avenue and a 25-foot storefront on Fourth Avenue.  During this time the store was known as “The Winchester Store”, selling Winchester firearms and sporting goods as well as it’s broad selection of hardware, housewares and hand tools.  There was a shooting range in the basement where a sharpshooter from Winchester put on shooting demonstrations.

       Today San Diego Hardware stands as the oldest family-owned and 10th oldest business in San Diego and continues its tradition of unmatched hardware expertise and one-on-one customer service. In March of 2006, after 114 years of business downtown, San Diego Hardware relocated to its new store in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego. The new store provides customers with an even larger selection of decorative hardware, more parking and convenient freeway access.  The store offers an expanded 8,000 square foot multi-level showroom where shoppers can peruse the largest selection of decorative and functional hardware in San Diego, including more than 7,000 knobs, 3,000 hinges, and 1000 different door locks.  The store offers for the first time a design center, as well as a plumbing showroom featuring a large selection of sinks, faucets, whirlpool tubs and bathroom vanities and other items for kitchens and bathrooms.  It is a veritable museum of the company’s fascinating past, retaining the time-honored “San Diego Hardware” identity by fusing the historical fabric of the old store with the conveniences and comforts of the 21st century.  The new store is located at 5710 Kearny Villa Road, north of Clairemont Mesa Blvd and just east of Highway 163.  (see map)

(Photos courtesy of the San Diego Historical Society)


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