Preserving the flavor of days gone by

A small fire snapped and popped, wrapping its toasty fingers?around wood inside an old-fashioned stove in The Old Hardware?Store in Halstead. It created a warm glow while snowflakes softly?fell to the ground outside during an early April snow shower.
In addition to providing a cozy, 1920s atmosphere, The Old Hardware?Store sells a variety of items, including authentic architecture and furniture?salvage hardware from the 1860s through the 1970s. The architectural hardware?that came from old homes from the late 1800s to the early 1900s the?store sells includes glass door knobs, porcelain knobs, ornate brass knobs?and backplates. Time periods covered include Victorian, Eastlake, Art Deco,?Colonial and many others.
?It?s the real stuff,? owner Margaret Kraisinger said. ?I just have a passion?for old things. I love working among turn-of-the-century cabinets. I love?handling hardware that was used 100 years ago or more.?
Kraisinger and her husband, Gary, purchased The Old Hardware Store?on Main Street in 1998 and restored it to look like it did in the 1920s, much?like a photograph from 1925 of the store’s interior printed in a publication?called Mail Call.
?We removed paint from the cabinets, the drawers and doors, which had?been stored upstairs for more than 40 years, were repaired and reinstalled,?lighting was changed back to the old-style hanging globes, pegboard was?thrown in the Dumpster, and center showcases were brought back into?use,? Margaret Kraisinger wrote in a Mail Call article.
The store now features a tin ceiling, squeaky wood floors, oak cabinetry,?a rolling ladder from floor to ceiling and a 1915 nail scale. The hardware
store?s building has seen its share of natural disasters, including surviving?several floods and a tornado. The two-story building was constructed in?1878-79, Kraisinger said, and is one of the original permanent buildings of?Halstead.
?It?s just full of history,? she said.

That history includes the list of owners, the first of which were David?Dyck and Henry Riesen, who had owned a grocery store across the street. In?1909, the two handed the business over to their sons. Seven years later, the?sons ordered oak cabinets for the store from the Warren Cabinet Co. of?Chicago. The sons, Curt Riesen and Albert Dyck, operated the hardware?store until 1936, according to a sign erected by the Harvey County Historical?Society, which is in front of the building.
?(The Kraisingers) reopened it in August of 1999 as the Old Hardware?Store,? the green sign reads. ?Today it is known far and wide as one of the
few remaining pre-1900 hardware stores still remaining.?
Other owners and store names include Detweiller and Frazer as D&F?Hardware from 1936 to 1946; Woodworth Hardware from 1946 to 1981;
Don Haury and Brad Smith as Halstead Hardware from 1981 to 1983;?Arnita and Don Haury as Halstead Hardware from 1983 to 1998. After the?Kraisingers purchased the place in 1998, they spent a year restoring it.
In addition to the restored interior, the store has more old-fashioned?charm in some of the other items it sells, which includes furniture hardware.

?I have probably the best selection of furniture hardware in the?Midwest,? Kraisinger said, sitting behind a large wooden counter in the?store that came from a mercantile shop in Newton.
She said there are only a handful of businesses that sell authentic hardware?online. She carries replacement hardware for people who have something?missing from an antique, and said she has ?drawers and drawers and?drawers? of furniture hardware.
?My hardware is my concentration,? she said.
Other items sold at the shop include sweets at the ?penny candy?counter,? which Kraisinger started a couple of years ago. The candy isn?t?sold for a penny but includes sugary treats from yesteryear, such as hard?stick candy, rock candy, licorice wheels, Black Jack gum, lollipops, waxed
bottles, root beer barrels and Sugar Daddys.
?So I have an old-fashioned candy counter,? Kraisinger said.
Kraisinger also sells antiques, such as kerosene lamps, food crocks,?kitchen items, washboards and rug beaters ? items that were used by?homesteaders who came to Kansas. She calls these items ?primitives,??which were handmade by the homeowners. The store also stocks old
dishes, such as Depression glass from the 1930s and 1940s and cobalt blue?glass. The hardware store is a parts distributor for Aladdin Lamp. If people?need wicks, chimneys or other items for their Aladdin Lamps, they need to?go through a distributor, Kraisinger said. Aladdin Lamps are oil lamps,?according to www.aladdin-us.com. The store also is a distributor for?kerosene-lamp parts. Since the business has been around for 14 years, it?seems to be doing well. Some customers visit the shop from as far away as?western Kansas, Topeka and northern Oklahoma. Other customers come?to the area once a year for other reasons, such as reunions, but drop by the?shop, jokingly saying they came from as far away as Arizona, for example,?just to shop there.
The store also seems to mean a great deal to the community.
?I treasure that store for a multitude of reasons,? Halstead Chamber of?Commerce President Mary Lee-McDonald said. ?It shows our past. I shop?there because I make jewelry from her old hardware. It?s kind of like a?treasure trove. There?s nothing like it downtown.?

 

Story and photos by Wendy Nugent