Hardware store still kicking after 123 years

November 4, 2011
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Roslindale Ace Hardware at 4407 Washington St.—one of the oldest businesses in the City of Boston—has been operating since 1888.

“There are not a lot of businesses that have been around that many decades,” owner Joseph Porteleki said in an interview with the Gazette last week.

Porteleki, the stores third owner, has been running it since 1982. A lot has changed in the business even since then, he said.

At its original location in Roslindale Square, the store used to be one of the biggest in the neighborhood.

“Now, it’s one of the smallest. The previous owners had 14 employees and two trucks. Now we have three employees and no trucks,” he said.

Porteleki chalked the changes up to the encroachment of big-box stores and an increasingly disposable culture.

“There used to be two fulltime people repairing windows and replacing glass,” he said, “We used to sell parts to tools.” But these days those things are normally replaced rather than fixed, he said. “Everyone has turned to throwing everything away.”

But customer service and continuity are what keep the store going, he said. “The only reason this business stays around is good customer service.”

When he took over in 1982, Porteleki hired on the former owners, the Berit brothers, to make sure that the business retained its feel. “They spent so many decades refining how they did things,” Porteleki noted.

Prior to that, the brother’s had purchased the store from the original owners, “the Cardinal family from Nova Scotia,” he said

That continuity is important for Porteleki, himself, too. “I have many artifacts from the 1800s—receipts, checks, signage photos.”

But so is the day-to-day. “We try to guide people through their projects and make sure they are buying the right thing,” he said

Porteleki was cautious about predicting another 100-plus successful years for the store. “I don’t even know if the world will be around in 100 years,” he said. But, he predicted, Roslindale Hardware will be around “for decades to come.”