Friday, January 23, 2015

Brick and Mortar: The County Store

I pride myself on my ability to fix the stuff around the house.  I have taken a room down to the studs and built it back again.  I have done quite a bit of electrical work and plumbing.  I have built furniture.  I am not as handy as my Dad, but I have learned that you can fix things using something other than a cellphone to call a handyman

But alas, the quality of do it yourself stores has dropped dramatically.  Go to one of the Big Box places and you have to go into bounty hunter mode to find "an associate" (who or what are they associating with?  Me? The store? Each other?).  Once you find them 9 times out of 10 they have no idea what you are looking for.

ME: "I am looking for a miter box?"
ASSOCIATE: "A what?"
ME: "Its a box that you put a board in and it lets you cut angles."
ASSOCIATE: "What would you need do that for?"

Worse yet is the person that reads you packages.  You know, you are looking for Spar Varnish and for whatever reason the varnish aisle is a mess.  So you go picking through the cans and you can't find anything.  They ask you what you are looking for and you tell them and they start picking up cans and reading them to you.  I CAN READ.  I was hoping that you would either a) keep this section neat and orderly or b) know where shit is.  If you can't do either, please leave me alone.

I yearn for the days of old when the stores weren't the size of football fields and people knew where shit was.  Hell, they even knew WHAT shit was.  Go into one of these old time stores and they'd not only know what a miter box was, they'd tell you which one was better or even better still, they'd tell you how to make your own.  But those places are all gone.

Or so I thought.

I recently found one--a legitimate, old time hardware store where people know stuff.  Shocking, yes.  Handy, yes.  Totally awesome?  HELL YES.  Its called The County Store and it is in Milford, New Hampshire.

Aside from knowing stuff, they don't skimp.  There is no end cap full of cheap junk.  All of the stuff they carry is GOOD solid stuff.  Their pocket tool section is emblematic of the whole store--Leatherman, Victorinox, Case, and Buck.  No "Sheffield Tools".  No "Ozark Trail".  Real tools that really work.

I found this place on a quest for buffing compound for my strops.  I went to Lowes and they looked at me as if I were a talking traffic cone.  But I went to The County Store, on a lark really, and I was met with intelligent questions: "What speed is your buffer?  Do you want a mirror polish?  Have you tried Tripoli Paste?".  In the end I walked out with the Tripoli Paste and a few other things, including a new old stock accessory kit for my beloved Leatherman Charge TTi.

The prices weren't bad either.  The accessory kit was the same price as it was online and there is no sales tax in NH, so I walked out the door saving money on that particular item.  A store like this is invaluable for folks working on their own shit and for folks interested in tools like us.  The old, great hardware stores aren't all gone.  They are just harder to find.  Which, in a way, is good for us.  We don't have to contend with bullshit hipsters perusing the lumber aisle in the process "crafting" things like tables that appear to be made by Dr. Seuss because they don't know how to use a speedsquare.   


  1. Tony, you should start a list of stores like this around the country. I feel your sentiments on the big box stores. They are as much of a pain to find something as it is to find someone to talk to.

  2. Nowadays when people say "do it yourself" it means the yourself part is to go and find somebody to do it for you.

  3. The Charge accessory kit is great. pocket clip, lanyard hook, sheath, bit kit right?

    I love my AL, carry it along with whatever folder i have that day.

  4. Important review. Stores like this are a treasure

  5. Mark - totally agreed - when you find a store like this, it's like a gem to be treasured!
    (My own local 'gem' is Mclendon's Hardware in/around Seattle).

    Just in recent memory, I've gone in for help with: getting rid of moles, exterior lighting, exterior plumbing (both winterproofing and repair), and purchasing a wheelbarrow. The quality of advice and help was always top-notch.

    Thanks so much for calling out the benefit of such a valuable resource, Tony!