October 5, 2012

Newington Hardware shutting, owner Brown retiring

Contributed photo
Contributed photo
Newington Hardware owner Allyn Brown.

Long-time Newington entrepreneur Allyn Brown is shutting his Newington Hardware store and retiring, leaving scores of loyal customers – many of them friends – to fend among the big chains for their home-improvement needs.

The end of October also will bring to a close his more than three decades as a local merchant, first selling boats and marine equipment, then hardware.

"I'm 70 years old,'' he said from his 4,000-square-foot store at 460 New Britain Ave. "I've been in this business 31 years, waiting on customers. So, it's time to take it easy.''

Brown left the phone company after 15 years as an installer, he said, to devote more time to his sideline boat-fabrication business that later branched into repairing and selling outboard engines and other marine gear.

Then the floor caved on that enterprise.

When the economy dips and consumers suffer, "the first thing they stop using is a boat,'' the veteran Army military policeman said.

Hardware is more insulated, he said, and was a key reason he cobbled together $24,000 of his savings to shift into that business, initially under the Ace Hardware flag.

"If times are good, they're fixing things up and spending money,'' Brown said, adding the same is nearly true in lean times.

During his years, the Hartford native said he has watched eight hardware stores come and go in town, among them Rickel Home Centers, Hechinger's and Briarwood Hardware.

Today, Home Depot and Lowe's operate home-improvement centers on nearby Berlin Turnpike in spaces each 25 times larger than Newington Hardware's.

"It's very difficult to compete,'' Brown said. "No matter what you have … it may not be the quality you have, but they have it.''

Brown concedes he hasn't fully thought out what he will do in retirement, but says it certainly won't include an easy chair.

"I tell everybody,'' he said, chuckling, "I'm gonna go to a resort and sell straw hats or something.''

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