#742 The smell of an old hardware store

A little bit of Old Spice hanging around, tooWalk into an old hardware store and take a big whiff. Come on now, just tip that head, sniff those fumes, and bring back a big brainful of love and memories with these gems:

• Hot, rubbery tires. Chinese chemical plants, hot vials of liquid rubber, and the musty stench of ocean liner storage bays combine to form this mind-altering buzz. And when you cruise on by, don’t forget to grab a free massage by rubbing your hand across all those tiny plastic hairy bits sticking off the tires in all directions. A classic.

Heads up!• Those tightly packed piles of soil. Flopped sideways and drooping in all directions, don’t these bags always look like they’re about to burst at the seams? Well, I guess the problem is that some of them do, leaking their sweet smelling brown-with-white-flecks dirtload all over the floor.

The key-cutting machine. If your hardware store is lucky enough to have a kid working away on a screaming key-cutting machine, then you’re probably sniffing in some hot, oily machine parts and a few metal scraps flying in all directions. Yes, that high-pitched piercing will wake up your baby and those smoky-metal fumes will wake up your childhood memories. Not a bad trade.

tree bodies• Stacks of lumber. Decades of sun, water, and carbon dioxide help build tiny seedlings in the sod into majestic giants of the forest. Now even though they’re diced up into bits, they’re still breathing out those deep woody, sappy-fresh scents.

• Assorted old spills. Somebody kicked a can of paint thinner under Aisle 3 back in 1987 and now its faintly toxic aroma is just hanging limply in the air along with metal nail dust, shiny tools, and plastic snow shovels.

Yes, as you walk those old hardware aisles it’s hard not to soak in the memories. So when you leave the store on the creaking wooden floor, through the dusty, sunbeam rays shining lazily over the dirty black floormat, let that jingle-jangly door clang shut on your great Saturday morning sniff down memory lane.


There you go

Photos from: here and here


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38 responses to “#742 The smell of an old hardware store

  1. Definitely one of the most awesome smells in the world.

    Sadly, these hardware stores are slowly dying out due to Lowe’s and Home Depot. But they’ll be old eventually…

  2. Helen

    The Canadian Tire smell. Also includes the smell of tents and soccer cleats.

  3. vim

    The radio on in the background and paying in cash.
    WD 40 and “For Sale” signs too.

  4. Ian

    I\’d put this up there with petrol as one of those smells that I couldn\’t possibly describe as nice, but there\’s something pleasing about them none the less.

  5. MMMmmm….. hot oily machine parts…
    My favorite are these tiny stores stuffed in the cracks and basements of NYC, and the fact that most of the time the stores are a mess but the old man behind the counter knows exactly where to find the little part you need.


  6. KD

    This makes me want to cry. In the past couple of years two local hardware stores went out of business. I knew where everything was! I used to just go and browse because there’s always something you need if you you look long enough.

  7. Janna

    How about going through the a-la-cart part? Where you can get bags of nails and screws by the pound? My boyfriend and I both remember going to hardware stores when we were younger and running our fingers through nails and screws of all shapes and sizes….

  8. Gordon

    Right there with you on this one. I’ve often thought about owning an old hardware store for this exact reason.

  9. KWildman

    We have an old hardware store where I live: http://www.chicowiki.org/Collier_Hardware

    Note the picture of the employee entrance. :)

  10. Our old one had a pop machine with cans for 50 cents, long after every other pop machine was bottles for $1.25.

  11. Agostino

    I love the people in those places…they truly make you feel like you are capable of doing it your self. Why are they always old though? And for some reason the tools they suggest you need for the job are never on they shelf. They just pull it out of the desk drawer and make the price up. Cheers to the awesome people in those old smelly hardware stores. Awesome 2x.

  12. Mel

    What a great testosterone-filled entry to follow the shoes!

    I absolutely love this smell. Along the same line is the smell of a feed store. Leather, grain, and sawdust. Awesome.

  13. I like the smell of the lumber.

  14. Sure beats the smell of Home Depot. But it’s really not the smell that’s so awesome. It’s the people. Who actually want to help you, not just collect a paycheck.

  15. Kaitliin

    Wow. Spot on with this one. Everytime I walk into a hardware store I realize just how aweseome the smell is! Awesome x10!

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  17. cemkalyoncu

    Hardware store is nice, but what is nicer is second hand bookstores. Incredible smell of aged books, I lost track of time sometimes, browsing through old books and finding notes and writings in them.

  18. Linda

    the Canadian Tire smell…reminds me of my dad…he’s been gone for 35 years but every time I walk into a CT store I remember…and smile.

  19. Shawn

    My mom worked at an old hardware store when I was a kid. I used to sit on her lap and breathe in all the wonderful smells. She (and my fiance) now work at Lowes so I still get some hardware smell but nothing like the real deal

  20. Grammie R

    Hard to find… but worth the search. The smell is unmistakeable.

    The runner up is book stores and the library.

  21. Meg

    Thanks for this. My dad owns a small quirky independent hardware store. He has such loyal customers and going into his store is always an adventure, he’s a mini celebrity in our small community. An Ace hardware moved like .5 mile from his store and he is putting them out of business. It smells amazing too, truly awesome.

  22. Frankie

    I remember tottering around after my father when I was little in shops like this. He’d spent half his time talking to the owner about whatever project he was doing at the time and discussing the best brand of paint while I shoved my hands into piles of wingnuts, screws and those plastic things you sometimes see in bricks.


  23. ~Dannie~

    Or just any old store. or an old barn.


    I have an old haedwarw store in franklinton, la. It is so hard to keep the doors open. The taxes in La make it almost impossible to survive. Please do business with older stores. Skip the chain stores. They are destroyiug the flavor of america.

  25. Arlene

    I like the old men in the old hardware stores. They don’t just help you find the right tool they will often do the job right there for you if it’s portable. Classic, good-old-fashioned service. Ours has a ride-on horse for 10 cents that still works. My six-year-old daughter rides it same as I did, 34 years ago. You can buy salt and pepper shakers, fishing rods, bikes and bunkbeds all in one spot.

  26. Terhi

    Somehow this reminded me of my granddad.
    He had this drawer full of old screws and bolts and tiny pieces of metal that looked like they were an important part of something but no one knew where they belonged. So he always put the lost screws in the same drawer, in case some day you found out where they belonged. We used to play with these bolts as kids. Maybe it was the boredomness of visiting grandparents or maybe the same old toys got boring, but me and my brother used to sort these in little piles, we tried to fit them together and spend hours just looking at them and thinking all the possible uses for the tinyest screws.

    I still remember what they smelled like: old patinated metal, dust, rust, memories,

  27. wendywithaurora

    Two treasure troves I know of,
    Google: Jack’s New and Used, Burnaby B.C.
    Fisher’s Hardware in Vernon, B.C., Canada

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  29. Yaaa

    I love the tire section, so true. Sidenote: an old man let me go ahead of him in line at the grocery store today. I had two things and was on my fifteen minute break. AWESOME!

  30. Emma DeCaro

    Hardware stores smell so refreshing! Just wondering, does anyone still use this app? I haven’t seen comments written since 2009 :/

  31. Alex

    I love the smell of gasoline and soccer cleats they smell so refreshing

  32. emily

    hardware stores… right up there with wet paint and wet leaves. and emma: were the 2011 minority!!!! be proud!!

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  34. …i love the smell of florida as you cross their state line…ahhhhhhumidity…change your shirt…

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