In 1943, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper lit the silver screen in the Oscar winning version of Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Silly Putty was invented, the 1942 Emmaus Hornets football season had ended in four wins, five losses and one tie, according to the Tattler yearbook of 1943 and George T. Wentz opened a plumbing supply store at 225 Main St., Emmaus.
The store would morph into Wentz Hardware and remain a fixture in Emmaus for the next 75 years.
On Oct. 31 the store will close.
“Bittersweet,” Darlene Kazmierski said of the closure, tears in her eyes. “It’s a good thing and something that needs to be done.”
Darlene met her husband Tim Kazmierski, George Wentz’s grandson, when they were in high school. They have run the store together, joined by their son Ryan, for many years.
Tim Kazmierski began working in the store when he was a teen, he said. Ryan started working at the store in middle school, he said.
“We’re ready for the next chapter,” Tim Kazmierski said.
Both Tim and Darlene are Realtors for Coldwell Banker Heritage Real Estate, 4095 W. Tilghman St., full time. The couple also run the hardware store full time. The store is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
“I have been working a lot of time for a lot of years,” Tim Kazmierski said.
The store is in his blood, Darlene Kazmierski said.
Tim’s late mother, Hope Wentz Kazmierski and her sister, the late Faith Wentz Dimmig, ran the store for years. His grandfather George Wentz, Tim said, died before he was born. The business was incorporated in 1966.
“He always knew he wanted to run a hardware store,” Darlene Kazmierski said of her husband.
According to family history, George Wentz, a plumber by trade, opened the store because he was unable to find the supplies he needed, Darlene Kazmierski wrote in an email to The Press. The specialty supply business grew into the hardware store.
The closing of the store adds to the list of recent changes in the skyline of Emmaus borough. Howerter’s Furniture store and Rodale Press have closed in recent years. The Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School was razed in July. The Emmaus Public Library is in the middle of adding a long awaited children’s wing. And an outpost of Egypt Star Bakery is taking root in the former Emmaus Bakery, 415 Main St.
Wentz Hardware will host an official retirement celebration 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 6 at the store. The store will also be the site of the family’s annual Emmaus Halloween Parade viewing party.
Meanwhile, there is a lot to do.
Because the building is sold, all remaining stock, shelving and other odds and ends must go. Discounts are being offered through the end of the month.
The store boasts a reputation as the place to find just about everything when it comes to hardware.
If you can’t find it at Wentz Hardware you don’t need it, Tim Kazmierski’s recalled of the store’s reputation.
The belief in the importance of good customer service held by sisters Hope and Faith continues to resonate in the store. For example, customers do not always know the official name or term for an item but will describe the item, and with a little detective work on the part of the store’s staff, the customer will leave with the needed item, Darlene Kazmierski said.
As the store’s closing looms, customers, former employees and friends have been stopping in to shop, visit and offer well wishes.
Four generations of family have held keys to the store.
“I grew up here,” Ryan Kazmierski said. A carpenter by trade, he will work for a friend. He will miss coming everyday after school, he said. “It’s all I’ve ever been a part of. I’m ready, though.”
The day of settlement on the sale of the building felt good, Tim Kazmierski said. The building is now owned by Altitude Marketing.
“Closing the doors for the last time probably won’t be so good,” Tim Kazmierski said.
The Press would like to hear from former and current customers and employees of Wentz Hardware. Please send recollections of the store c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at 1633 N. 26th St., Allentown, 18104 .