BANGOR, Maine — One by one, they pulled up to the Aubuchon Hardware storefront, getting out of their vehicles and walking toward the double-door entrance at a brisk pace, until they noticed the papered-over windows and the white signs posted on the doors.
“Are they closed? They are? Really?” asked a Newburgh man who usually stopped in once or twice a month. “That’s too bad. I’m disappointed.
“The last time I came here was just last month. I’ve probably been coming here off and on for 30 years.”
Wednesday was the last day the 21 Main St. Aubuchon Hardware store at Penobscot Plaza in Bangor was open, but employees were still busy inside Friday taking inventory, moving merchandise and closing shop.
“It’s been something we’ve been thinking about for a year and a half,” said Fred Stewart, store manager. “In fact, we got a reprieve a little over a year ago when the owners of the building decreased the rent to allow us to stay here.”
Still, sales couldn’t remain high enough to offset operating costs.
“There are a lot of retailers in Bangor, and it’s a tough economy everywhere, but there’s nothing I can really put my finger on,” said Chuck Arbor, Aubuchon district manager. “The store, since we purchased it, has been struggling. It’s not where we need it to be, given the size of this footprint.”
Stewart — who has worked at the store for the last six years, the last eight months as store manager — says he traces disappointing sales figures back five years.
“There were certain, unusual or out-of-the-ordinary products that TrueValue was able to get that Aubuchon couldn’t,” Stewart said. “Like we used to carry Snowe & Nealley tools, which were locally made. And hardware customers are very loyal, so I’m sure that played a part.”
Stewart will stay on with Aubuchon and be shifted to the Brewer store.
He said it’s tough to see the Bangor store close.
“I think it’s been a hardware store since 1969 continuously, so it’s sad,” Stewart said.
Arbor said he hopes Aubuchon’s Brewer and Old Town stores will pick up the displaced Bangor customers.
A Herman contractor, who did not wish to be identified more specifically, said he only came into the store “two or three times a year,” but will miss the Penobscot Plaza store.
Another customer, Lem Acosta of Frankfort, said, “I’m sad. I’ve only been stopping in here for the past eight years.
“It’s a local hardware store, and I tend to support the local stores. I guess now I’ll probably go to Brewer more,” Acosta said.