This undated picture of Williams Lumber & Hardware in Niles hangs on the wall inside the store on S. 15th Street. Submitted photo
This undated picture of Williams Lumber & Hardware in Niles hangs on the wall inside the store on S. 15th Street. Submitted photo

Archived Story

Niles hardware store closes after 130-plus years

Published 4:50pm Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bruce Williams said deciding to close Williams Do It Best Lumber & Hardware was one of the toughest decisions he’s ever made.

The Niles business has been in the Williams family for six generations, beginning when James C. Williams — Bruce’s great-great-great grandfather — moved from Wales to Niles to start a sand, gravel and cement block business in the late 1800s.

“I don’t think anyone would want the chain to break on their shift,” Williams said. “You feel this kind of unprecedented responsibility to keep it going for one more generation.”

Williams said he made the decision a few weeks ago. He said his business suffered from a combination of Lowe’s coming to Niles, followed by the recession and stalled housing market.

“One or the other, I think we probably could’ve survived,” he said. “I just don’t see the building coming back anytime soon … if I felt like this year would be much better than last year, I’d try and hang on for a year, but I just don’t see it.”

Williams Lumber & Hardware has seven employees.

It will close around the end of March or early April. A going-out-of-business sale begins Thursday.

“I’d like to thank the people of this town for supporting us for six generations — That’s a really big thing,” Williams said.

Donald Vandenberg, who has been doing business with Williams Lumber & Hardware for more than 50 years, said he was disappointed to hear of its closing.

“It’s going to be unusual not to be able to swing in a pick up what you need,” he said. “If you explained what you need, they would come up with it and most of the time they had it in stock.”

Niles historian Donna Ochenryder said the Williams family is responsible for many historic buildings in Niles, including the Elks Club, at 102 N. 3rd St., in 1929. It featured bowling alleys in the basement and a bar advertised as a “soft drink fountain” because of Prohibition.

Ochenryder said the closing left her feeling crushed.

“Their business was like the neighbor next door,” she said. “Once you introduced yourself, you were never a stranger.”

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