A day after the memorial service for his father, Richard Tschantz was back on the job at West Hill Hardware.
Family and friends of Paul Tschantz this week recalled spending days at “The Hardware” as they reminisced about the life of the longtime owner of the store at 335 W. Market St. in Akron.
“Plumbing is a common thread for everybody,” said Richard Tschantz, 61, the third generation of his family to run the old-school hardware store. He has been there since 1976.
On every shelf in every corner of the old store are thousands of items ranging from nails, screws, nuts and bolts, to electrical gadgets, paints, tools and more.
Customers come in for keys, to replace window screens, for glass for windows or to buy an old toilet or bathtub or a few pieces of hard-to-find tile.
Paul Tschantz, a World War II veteran who landed in Normandy on June 7, 1944, and fought across Europe with the signal corps, died June 22 at the age of 92.
The family held a memorial service in the chapel at the Rose Hill Burial Park this week. Paul Tschantz worked at West Hill Hardware until 2005.
The store was started by Charles Louis Tschantz, Richard Tschantz’s grandfather, in 1930.
Richard Tschantz said his dad was 10 years old when the store opened during the Great Depression.
Paul Tschantz and his younger brother, Charles “Chick” Tschantz, also a World War II veteran, worked at the store with their father as boys and both came back to the store in the late 1940s after the war.
Store founder Charles Tschantz, born in 1886, owned Community Hardware on Copley Road and Madison Avenue and Five Points Hardware on West Exchange Street before opening West Hill Hardware. He died in 1981 at the age of 94. His son Charles “Chick” Tschantz died in 1983 at the age of 61.
At the memorial service, Mike Tschantz, nephew of Paul Tschantz and son of Charles Tschantz, recalled the many days of childhood when he and his siblings and cousins would work at the store.
“We all grew up at ‘The Hardware,’ ” he recalled. “Uncle Paul was the one you went to when you had a mechanical problem.”
When the Tschantz youngsters worked at the store on weekends, they would often sit on the floor and sort and count springs, screws or other things.
A few times a year, linseed oil would be put on the old wooden floor to keep down the dust in the store.
Sally Tschantz-Dwyer, Paul Tschantz’s daughter, who lives in Rhode Island, officiated at the memorial service this week.
“Dad was not a big hug-and-kiss kind of guy,” she said. “He showed his love in quiet little ways.
She remembered how her father refurbished a bike of hers when she was a child to give to a needy child.
“What a nice thing to do,” she said.
Richard Tschantz said he learned the art of repairing things from his father.
“If there was something we wanted, he would either show us how to do it or you would end up suckering him to do it for you,” he recalled.
Richard Tschantz said he plans to keep the store open and maintain “the status quo” for now.
On Thursday, a man entered the store with a tiny gadget he said was used to hang a shutter.
Tschantz looked at the item but could not think of anything the store had that would work to replace the part.
“Stumped you today,” the man said with a laugh.
“Sorry about that,” Tschantz said.
With the proliferation of national chain stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot and others where hardware goods are sold, Richard Tschantz said, his store now really is a place where people come for small repair jobs.
“That is where we’ve niched ourselves,” Tschantz said.
The Rev. Dick Williams, 74, of Akron, a retired Lutheran minister, wrote a short history of the store in 2010 called A Tribute to the Tschantz Family and West Hill Hardware, Akron, Ohio.
“These stores are going to be a thing of the past,” Williams said.
What is great about the West Hill store and others like it, he said, is the collection of items that are for sale.
“They are just an amazing collection of stuff,” he said. “There is no end to the stuff, on the main floor and in the basement. ... A phenomenal collection of stuff.”
After the man left with the shutter gadget, another man bought a small hacksaw.
Along with instructing how to repair things, Tschantz said his father taught him other essential lessons a boy needed to learn, like how to ride a bike, catch and throw a ball, hunt butterflies, snakes and turtles and many other things.
“Dad was a creative energy who will live on and on,” he said.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com.