Only in Atlantic Highlands can you get excited over a Hardware Store. But you can’t help it! With brothers Chuck and Andy Hull owners of what they still call Jaspan Brothers South Hardware …they were the last owners from 1983 until the Hulls bought it to 2003… and a team of employees who not only know where just about everything is in the store but apparently, judging from their great personalities and smiling faces love their jobs, it’s bound to be a winner.
Maybe it’s because the Hulls aren’t just hardware and paint store owners…they’re everybody’s neighbor, everybody’s friend and very involved in the community. Natives of the borough, and both still living here with their families, the owners are sons of both a dad and granddad who were fire chiefs on the local department Between Chuck and Andy, who are still active members of the volunteer department, they add another fifty years of community service from the Hull family to Atlantic Highlands.
But back to the hardware store. Just stop in for the fun of it. At any given time, there might be five, six or ten people in line waiting to add up their costs, pay their bills, and get back to whatever they were doing that required the trip to the store. But nobody’s complaining, nobody’s trying to push ahead, nobody’s aggravated at the wait. That’s because they’re all talking to each other, either joking, trading stories or giving each other some tips. There is no doubt about it, Jaspan Brothers South Hardware is a community business run for the community.
It’s not only the friendliness and helpfulness that makes this First Avenue business so popular. Granted, given that the nearest Big Box stores are at least ten miles away, it’s downright convenient to be able to pop in the corner store to pick up half a dozen screws or that one gallon of paint that will finish the job. But more importantly, it seems the Hulls stock everything! Everything in their 4,000 square foot store from drawers and drawers of screws, nuts, bolts, nails of every size, type and metal, to garden equipment, gas grills, wheelbarrows, paints galore complete with computer color matching, and propane filling. Even protective cages for healthy tomato plants! And flower and vegetable seed packets. There are lightbulbs of every size, shape and design, tools, batteries, you name it, if it’s necessary for everyday life or to repair something, it’s probably on a shelf, in a drawer, or in the back room at Jaspan Brothers South. They estimate they have about 35,000 different items, who it’s more like that’s the number they were at when they quit counting!
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Besides the community dedication, the Hull brothers belong to the National Retail Hardware Association, a more than hundred-year old organization of store owners and folks in the hardware and paint business who are happy to coordinate and share merchandising techniques, strategies, and success stories to make a great store even greater. The Association also offers training sessions so the Hulls can ensure their employees the variety of skills it takes to run a business, specifically as hardware business. The Association is chock full of resources and skills to help independent store owners contend with legalities, payrolls,, and everything else necessary behind the scenes to keep the doors open and the business well-stocked. Did I mention the staff apparently likes their jobs? Most of them have been there a long time, so you can chalk up more than a century and a quarter of experience, making it easy to ask anyone who works there for tips on just about anything hardware or paint oriented.
Since the days when Frank Siegfried owned the hardware store, through the Jaspan Brothers, and now the Hulls, this has been a great place for household or contractors’ needs. The Hulls estimate there are probably as many women as men who shop there, both because of the assistance they give and questions they can answer and because so many women are now involved in businesses that need the services hardware stores can offer. Supply houses like shopping here as well.
The Big Box stores have pretty well done away with the local, family-run business, but not here in Atlantic Highlands. And that makes Jaspan Brothers South Hardware Store’s just one of the reasons this community stays a cut above anywhere else.
Muriel J. Smith