My parents grew up in Pittsburgh’s West End in the ’50s. They walked to church and school, and they took the trolley when they headed downtown. They had at least one food market, drug store, five and dime, butcher shop, bakery, hardware store, dry cleaner and bank in the business district that was walkable to from their house.
Those days are gone, and with them are many of the independent, family-owned establishments that existed right there in the neighborhood. They’ve been replaced with the big-box stores in the strip malls, which have become a necessary part of our 21st century lives, requiring a car trip and the assumption that we’re getting the lowest price.
Mt. Lebanon is often an exception to this. For me, the one-stop shop managing to outwit modern trends is Rollier’s Hardware. The beloved family-owned local business has been a reliable part of this area for generations. I remember as a kid, going to the big red barn with my dad and marveling that a hardware store had two floors!
Living close by, I don’t need to travel to Home Depot or Lowe’s when Rollier’s has everything I need and more. Even if I must get in my car because I am buying items too heavy to carry, (I did regret my decision to walk home with a 10-lb. bag of grub control recently) I would much rather stop there than travel a half hour down the road, out of my way, and fight traffic and crowds.
It’s fun to shop in the spring and summer because not only do they have what I need for seasonal gardening: mulch, gravel, tools, fertilizer and plants, but I also love to browse their gardening section! A bird bath, a wreath for my door, a pretty flowerpot and tempting outdoor decorations, it’s all there in one conveniently located city block.
And let’s talk about Christmas! Rollier’s creates a seasonal destination full of delightful displays, captivating decorations, unique gifts and everything that you could possibly need to decorate your home for the holidays (and the lights that they stock last longer than the drug store offerings that I find myself replacing every freaking year!). Their displays are almost the modern-day equivalent of the department store Christmas windows.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of their greatest assets is their people. The staff is always happy, friendly and, most importantly, available. Often, I will go there with questions, and they are always generous with advice without requiring me to buy the most expensive item. Many of the employees are retired and value the opportunity to stay busy part-time and enjoy sharing their knowledge. Plus, there is a good chance that I will run into someone I know there almost every time I go!
People always assume that the big box store will be cheaper but that is not always true. Overall, it’s competitive. I was looking at hose nozzles the other day, and the box store carries many options that vary in price. Rollier’s knows that quality is better than quantity and offers a sound choice at a reasonable price. I have found that many areas like hardware and plumbing are consistently less expensive. And not having to drive a half hour out of my way is worth more to me than saving a few pennies.
Rollier’s is a destination for the after-school crowd, too. They stop for ice cream, chips and candy on the way home, transforming this hardware store into the corner candy store that many of us grew up with as kids.
We can’t go back to the time to where every neighborhood had a convenient, 1950s business district, but this place does a great job of providing us with everything we need while maintaining that small town atmosphere, and friendly customer service right here in our neighborhood.