As town institutions go, Alstott’s comes up aces
In a utopian business world, you should be able to enter a retail establishment, be greeted pleasantly, asked what it is you need, and then, lo and behold, the employees should know exactly what and where that item is located. In fact, I have a business in mind where a good percentage of the time I don’t know what I need, and these same fellas find it for me anyway.
Of course, I am talking about Alstott’s Ace Hardware located on the south side of Corydon. The origin of this business began around 1900 by George Wahl on Chestnut Street, and then Marvin Alstott’s father, Arlston, bought it in 1943 and moved to the present location on South Capitol Avenue. Marvin took over in 1965, and is still going to work in the store at the age of 78.
Marvin says, ‘I’m not sure I could make it in the hardware business starting out fresh right now.’
Alstott’s success is all based on its low overhead and customer service.
‘One woman came in yesterday and told us she was sure glad we were here. She bought three wood screws,’ Marvin says with a laugh. ‘You just don’t have that option at Wal-Mart.’
The business is located on the bank above Indian Creek at the south bridge. That means that flooding is always a looming reality. Marvin said that, of course, the floods of 1957 and 1959 come to mind, but that 1997 was the worst experience for him. Events conspired to create disaster by bringing in 30 inches of water in 30 minutes. A semi-trailer and a large tank in the creek created an impromptu dam that backed up the water right into Alstott’s building.
‘I put my trust in God to get through that and we did,’ Marvin says, although the damage was considerable.
A person can get tired of messing with these creeks. I think that is one reason that Marvin and his wife, Louise, have enjoyed their new home that sits on a bluff high above Little Indian on the west side of town.
‘Only an act of the Almighty can reach us up here,’ Marvin says.
The view is spectacular of the creek running through part of Hayswood Nature Reserve and past the fairgrounds toward the east. It is even possible at times to see the beginnings of the Old Capital Golf Club course from the patio in the back.
Marvin and Louise celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year, and Alstott Ace Hardware will have a 65th birthday year in 2008. This is all pointing toward retirement and possible changes and turnover in the business.
What does this mean for all of us out here needing our copper wire, obscure toilet parts, hose repair, and funny screws and washers? We can only hope that we won’t be left high and dry without our Ace Hardware handy. You can get awfully used to having a town institution right down the street.
Leah Porter is at the Harrison County Public Library in Corydon on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 1 to 3 p.m.