Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Moffitt Hardware celebrates 100 years of service

By Roger Estlack, Clarendon Enterprise

The old front door opens and closes, and pine floor boards begin to creak. It’s Monday morning in Hedley’s Moffitt Hardware, and another customer needs serving.

Moffitt Hardware owner Bill Carson stands ready to help the next customer in his century old store in Hedley. A 100th anniversary celebration will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with free hot dogs, birthday cake, and door prizes. Enterprise Photo / Roger Estlack

“Bill, can you make me a key?” asks Hedley city worker Victor Abrago.

Bill Carson steadies himself on his cane and ambles over to the man’s assistance, continuing a tradition that is more than 100 years old.

Carson hands the new key to Abrago, who thanks the storekeeper and tells him he’ll be back for about ten more later.

Over the next hour, customers trickle in, grabbing a handful of peanuts off the stove, while satisfying their need a furnace filter, a hoe head, a three-quarter inch PVC coupling, and some window screen to protect their vegetable garden from rabbits.

“Earlier today we even sold a man some bicycle pedals that were marked by Hobart (Moffitt),” Carson’s daughter Susan Cosby says.

Hedley residents have depended on this store for generations, and will have a chance to celebrate its century of service this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with free hot dogs, birthday cake, and door prizes.

The business began when Thomas Robert Moreman and Charles Battle opened Moreman & Battle Hardware & Furniture back in 1916 on Hedley’s Main Street. In 1918, they employed a young man named Hobart Moffitt to be their bookkeeper. That same year, a competing store opened right next door – Thompson Bros. Hardware. After nine years, Hobart left Moreman & Battle and moved to the competition next door.

Then in 1952, Hobart realized his dream. He bought both hardware stores, combined them into one store, and tore out the wall dividing the two businesses and named the venture Moffitt Hardware. Some things didn’t change though… and haven’t. Hobart kept the wood floors, the tin ceiling, the display cabinets, Thompson Brothers’ safe, and a cabinet with “LARIAT ROPE” spelled out on the doors with lariat rope, of course.

All of that remains today and the present owners have no intention of changing a thing.

“These old pine floors have held up all this time,” Carson says. “The ceiling, they tell me, I could take to Houston and make big money. But it’s not for sale.”

It’s Carson’s determination that helps keep the authenticity of Moffitt Hardware… a place frozen in time, a living museum that preserves part of Hedley’s history but still has a role to fill serving its people today.

“You could get just about anything you needed from Moffitt’s,” longtime resident Ruthie White says. “That store saves farmers a lot of miles. Sometimes you just need a handful of screws, and they have them. It means a lot to Hedley.”

Hobart Moffitt operated the store for 36 years before his death in 1988 brought his personal 70 years of service to an end. But Hobart had such an impact on his community, that he is still remembered fondly even three decades after he passed away.

“He was just a real sweetheart,” Hedley Senior Citizens director Kathy Spier said. “I worked one winter for him wrapping Christmas presents.”

The holidays were a special time at Moffitt Hardware in the 1950s and 1960s, Spier and White remembered. Hobart would fill a loft (originally used by Moreman & Battle to store caskets) in the south half of the building with toys, and he would place temporary shelving above his regular stock and line them with toys also.

Back then, Moffitt’s was also the go-to place for furniture and appliances.

“I bought my first television set there in 1966,” Spier said. “It was a color TV, and I gave it to Mom and Dad.”

White also remembers that when her daughter Tanya was born, she shared her birth date with Hobart.

“He always gave her a gift on her birthday,” White said. “He did that until she got married, and then he told her that her husband could get her gifts now.”

Hobart was known for his friendly demeanor, saying “Howdy, howdy, howdy,” and for his love of trains.

“If he was waiting on someone and a train came through, he would just say, ‘Excuse me,’ and he would go outside and watch the train,” White said.

After he passed away, Hobart’s sister Ruby Moffitt Beeclker inherited the store and ran it for a while.

“She said she just couldn’t take care of it,” Carson said, “so I bought it in 1991.”

Carson was no stranger to the hardware business. He had worked for and then owned Morton Lumber Company in Borger for several years before retiring in 1981. He and his wife, Jaunell, moved back to her family’s farm near Hedley at that time. Mrs. Carson’s family, the Tates, were pioneers in Donley County.

“When I sold the lumber yard in Borger, I thought that was it for me,” Bill Carson said. “I had a good business, but it was stressful. I probably wouldn’t be alive today.”

In Hedley, he found a more easy-going lifestyle, and from time to time he would mind the store for Hobart.

“He was a real good guy, and I got acquainted with him,” Carson said. “He would have me work for him when he would go to the mountains.”

After the Carsons took over the store, they prospered for a long time. The store even started carrying feed, but stopped after several years.

“It was really good when I first got it, but it has fallen off considerably,” Carson said. “We just don’t have the people here that we used to. But it’s been here so long, I feel like it ought to stay.”

Carson says he keeps the store open because he enjoys it and its important to the community. In addition to the typical hardware stock, the store also houses the old choir chairs from the Hedley Methodist Church, an old set of local Post Office boxes with names still on the back, and the scales from the Hedley Gin.

“They used to weigh the cotton bales on those,” Carson said. “When they took them out, I said they needed to stay in Hedley.”

Susan Cosby and her husband, Stan, plan to move to Hedley this year when Stan retires; and she has plans to help her parents keep Moffitt Hardware open.

There are also some really good deals to be found shopping Moffitt Hardware, Cosby says. Just like Hobart, Bill Carson hasn’t been in the practice of ever changing a price once it’s been marked.

“There is still some of Hobart’s stock marked with his price,” she said.

She intends to add a coffee drinking area where her dad previously sold feed, but other than that, she wants to keep things the same, keeping the store open from 8:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, and 8:30 to 1:00 on Saturdays.

“You can go to Home Depot or Lowe’s,” Cosby said, “but there is just something about this old store. I love the glass cases and just the unique way that Dad and Hobart have stuff displayed. It says something about that era.”

 

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