The ‘Price’ of Home Sweet Home

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as before the internet. There is such a thing as before Walmart. That “before” in my hometown of Atlanta, Texas, was and is Price Hardware. It’s a store in the old part of town; you know, the part of town unknown to travelers that pass through on US Highway 59. For seventy-four years, Price Hardware has been a staple in this small Texas town. It’s a place to buy nuts, bolts, garden hoses, and sandpaper. It’s also the place to have spare keys made: many, many spare keys. I refuse to point fingers on that one.   

For a quick history reference, Price Hardware (or just plain old “Price’s” as it is referred to by locals) was established after Roy Price came home from World War II in 1946. It was a family business, as Roy joined forces with his brother, Bogie. Roy managed the hardware side, and Bogie managed the sporting goods side. Their dad, Irvin B. Price, also joined the business. The story goes that Mr. Irvin B. never drove a car to work. He walked to the hardware store everyday wearing a three-piece suit. He’d be more than ashamed of the woman I saw wearing pajama pants in the grocery store yesterday. Anyway, Price Hardware was passed down to John Price, Mr. Roy’s son, until he sold the family business in 2017. 

On this particular morning, I sit in my husband’s truck parked in the parking lot of Price’s. The husband says he’s going in to “grab a couple of things.” To my right, two men exit the hardware store at the same time. I can tell these two have known each other for years. They’re smiling and laughing with their eyes. They slap each other on the back and spit tobacco juice dangerously close to each other’s boots. That’s a friend. I can’t hear what they’re saying, but I get the feeling that I had to have been there to appreciate it. 

In front of me, closest to the entrance of the hardware store, is somebody’s mutt in the back of a beat-up Chevy truck. I’m pretty sure this dog has been to Price’s before. I can just tell. She wags her tail as customers enter and exit, but she doesn’t once attempt to jump out of the bed of that old truck. That’s her happy place, and she knows it. She’s in the perfect spot for all the head rubs and ear scratches that a good old dog could want. By the way, where is my husband and what is taking him so long?

Across the parking lot, a teenage employee loads a heavy sack of something for an elderly lady. They carry on a friendly conversation while her morning purchases are being placed in the car, and that makes me smile. I smile because there seems to be such a disconnect between today’s youth and the older generation. But not today; not at Price’s. 

Somebody taps on the window. It’s the Davis family from church. I’ve known them both for... well... I don’t remember not knowing them. Mr. Davis has a sack full of stuff from the hardware store. Let me add that it’s a paper sack. At Price’s, there is none of this bust-a-hole-in-it-before-you-get-it-home business. It’s a real deal, I-used-to-carry-my-school-lunch-in-one-of-those kinds of paper sacks. Anyway, they ask about my kids and how life is going. They ask about these sorts of things every time I see them because they are genuinely interested in my life. I love them. Good gravy! I’m going to age 17 years while the man I married is in Price’s! What the heck is taking him so long?

Just now, Curt walks out of the front of the store. Curt is the new owner of Price Hardware. His last name is Bates, and he is of no relation to the Price family. Sure, Curt could have changed the store’s name to Bates’ Hardware when he bought the business two years ago, but Curt is a local boy. Though he’s proud of his family name, he knows that the name “Price,” in front of “Hardware,” has stood the test of time in Atlanta, TX. He shakes the hands of customers going in and out of his store. He is thankful for the business and grateful for the people that keep coming back for more. Lost in this scene, I have forgotten that my significant other has been in Price’s for 56 years now.

Price Hardware, Atlanta, TX

Just as I flash back to this current small-town morning, the man I promised to love and cherish suddenly gets in the truck. I look into his brown paper sack to find a handful of 16 penny nails and a new spare key. Again, I’m not naming names on the spare key thing. “It took you that much time to get just these two things,” I ask. He tells me he could have been in and out in under ten minutes, but he stopped and talked to our old high school principal, and he also saw an uncle of his. This is the same uncle that gave us $100, out of the blue, when we were twenty-something, had three kids under five years old, and were flat broke. To this day, I don’t know how he knew we were surviving by the skin of our teeth. He just handed us the money, said, “I’ve been there,” and walked away. No young couple ever made $100 stretch so far. 

With all that I’ve seen and heard in the last half hour, I suddenly realize that Price Hardware is so much more than just a hardware store in a small town. Sure, it’s where the natives go to buy electrical sockets and plungers, but it’s so much more. It’s a place where people meet up, not knowing that they will, but are always glad they do. Its where old friends stand in the aisles and “remember when.”  It’s a place where the employees smile when you walk through the door and make you feel you’ve been welcomed back to a simpler time. Am I being dramatic? Maybe I am, but you would understand if you had ever been here.  So, thank you, Mr. Roy Price, for your dream and vision. Price Hardware continues to be a real treasure in uncertain times.  Thank you, John and Carol Price, for the history lesson. Thank you, Curt Bates, for upholding a hometown tradition. I wish the world outside of our hometown hardware store would take their cues from Price’s.  Of course, nothing in this life is perfect, but I’m convinced that the culture of Price Hardware culture is pretty dang close and I’m thankful for it. 


 

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