Rural Missouri - January 2018 - 8
Trenton Hardware has it
or you don't need it
by Zach Smith | email@example.com
he storefront sign proclaims, "If we ain't got it, you don't need it." And
when people in northern Missouri need it, they come to Trenton Hardware.
"Sometimes you hear, 'Well, by God, I need it and you don't have
it,' " says Dale McNabb, the second-generation owner-operator of the business.
"Then it becomes my job to explain to them they really don't need it."
The Main Street shop in downtown Trenton has been a hardware store for
at least 115 years, when a group of business partners purchased the Western
Co-op and opened Trenton Hardware in October 1902. An article announcing
the purchase in the Trenton Republican stated: "The Republican predicts it will
be a success."
"I don't know about a success," Dale adds with a smile, "but we're still here.
We're consistent, at least. I'm here every day."
In fact, Dale's often at work and conducting business well before the store
opens at 8 a.m. That's usually about the time every morning Dale's father,
Jack, who retired in 2011, calls to check in with his son. In the days when
Trenton Hardware installed and repaired washing machines and water pumps
and delivered propane, Dale remembers his father putting chains on the store
truck so he could drive through snow and ice to help customers in nearby
towns. The before- and after-hours dedication to service hasn't disappeared: if
someone needs a part or tool for a job on Saturday afternoon or Sunday, Dale
is there to help any way he can.
"Everybody here knows me and knows my family, so it's kind of on-call all
the time," Dale says. "But then that's just life in a small town."
Dale went to work at Trenton Hardware after graduating from high school in
1978, about 24 years after his father started working there and 15 years after
Jack and some business partners bought out the owners. He grins, remember-
ing some of the pranks played on new hires, including himself, such as being
sent to other stores to pick up imaginary items such as board stretchers and
These days, Dale is the sole employee so pranks have gone by the wayside,
but certain aspects of the early days remain. He still brings inventory up from
the basement with the hand-powered freight elevator, still writes receipts by
hand and doesn't take plastic.
"Contractors that come in and pull out a credit card are shocked," Dale
laughs, noting if a customer isn't paying with cash or a check he often bills a
company's account. "I don't know that there's really a reason why. We just do
everything the hard way and so far it's worked. For the most part people are
honest, I think."
As a pillar of downtown, it comes as no surprise that in the days when an oilburning and later gas stove once sat against the wall the hardware store was
a gathering place for the community. The stove is long gone thanks to central
heating, but the convivial atmosphere of a local business still runs strong.
"Will that work for you?" Dale asks a customer buying an outlet tap for her
holiday lights. When she replies, "Yes," he adds, "And if it doesn't you know
where you bought it, so you can always bring it back."
Electrical and plumbing supplies are two areas of specialization for Trenton
Hardware. Valves for stock tanks and farm ponds are tucked away on shelves,
all meticulously labeled with the appropriate handwritten measurements. So
too are the bins and trays brimming with nails, screws, nuts, bolts, key blanks,
couplers and adapters. Axes, shovels and pipe wrenches neatly line the wall
across from the racks of rope, waiting to be measured and cut.
Like the sign out front suggests, the store carries a little bit of anything and
everything the professional or weekend warrior might need. In the ﬁrst few
ofﬁcial business hours, Dale sells a variety of pipeﬁttings, a Moen single-lever
faucet stem, a soldering gun, a half-inch drill bit, a new electrical cord for a
Left: A young contractor in need of some advice and a speciﬁc part shows Dale photos of a renovation job on his smartphone.
Below left: Dale takes a customer's order over the phone in the back ofﬁce. Dozens of part catalogs from various companies
line the shelves in his ofﬁce and at the register. Below center: While the store carries a little bit of everything, plumbing supplies