A eulogy for Eagleton Hardware: New owner hopes to preserve the building’s charm and past | News

Standing in the middle of what was, just a few weeks ago, the Eagleton Hardware Store on East Broadway, new owner Bryan Schreiber can smell the building’s ghosts.

These are not the supernatural specters of horror films, although on a Wednesday morning with the power still off, the cavernous building has an eerie feel in early December.

The metal ceiling tiles of what used to be the retail space reflect little ambient light, and the back room, where former owner Mike Miller stored a random collection of tools, machinery, supplies and odds and ends which were sold via an online auction last month, is a haunted house scene straight out of the central cast iron: the metal trusses supporting the original wooden roof are shrouded in cobwebs, and the bare walls of carefully cut planks are devoid of plasterboard or panels.

In reality, however, it’s a time capsule from an era when craftsmanship triumphed over opportunity, and with the warehouse space combined behind a set of roll-up garage doors and two storage rooms. additional storage, Schreiber knew he had found the right location for his new Hello Franchise garage as soon as he walked through the door.

“I looked around Knoxville; my realtor sent me a list of about eight places, and this was one of them, and I finally came here and checked it out one day, ”Schreiber told the Daily Times. “When I walked in the first thing I thought about was, ‘This place is amazing! I immediately saw the potential – the facade was beautiful, and when I started to walk around and see the architectural structure, you could tell it had so much potential and opportunity. It’s beautiful, and you can just tell it’s gonna be an amazing place.

Longtime local residents may recall that Eagle’s Hardware was owned for years by Bud DeFoe, whose father and grandfather first opened it around 1950. The store was handed over to Charles and Roberta Walker soon after it opened, however, and the couple have handled it as Eagleton Hardware for 37 years.

After buying it from the Walkers, the name changed to DeFoe Hardware, but eight years later DeFoe sold it as is to Mike Miller, who grew up in rural Blount County and attended Hubbard and Bassel Schools. before graduating from Alcoa. After joining the Marines in 1970, he was diagnosed with degenerative eye disease which ultimately led to permanent impairment. That, Miller told the Daily Times, played the biggest part in his decision to close the store last year.

“It was too difficult to see and move, and on top of that the pandemic slowed everything down too,” he said. “It was really frustrating, because there were a lot of things that I had to stop doing. I had to have a flashlight to really do anything, and people had to drive me. I have been fairly independent for most of my life and hated continuing to depend on people.

Miller bought the store in 1996, changed the name to Eagleton Hardware, and for the next 25 and a half years he reminded local residents of simpler times. When it became apparent that he could no longer continue serving his longtime regulars – many of whom can find him having breakfast at the Midland Restaurant around 6 a.m. every day – he turned to turned to Maryville’s DeLozier Realty and Auction, one of Blount’s oldest auction houses. County, to liquidate the assets of the store. Owner Jerry DeLozier, his son Austin and co-owner Kevin Ross took inventory of the store’s contents, bundled the items and sold everything online over a period of weeks to bidders across the country.

“This auction generated a lot of interest and we had several bidders,” said Jerry DeLozier. “Mike had things and offered services that you wouldn’t necessarily find in some big box stores, like the old-fashioned key cutting machine you used by hand. There was an old ladder from Toledo; old antique display cases; a very unique mid-century modern seed cabinet; a great pipe threading machine (Ridgid 300) that allowed you to thread pipes to unique specifications. It took a lot of technique to make equipment like this work.

With the assets in DeLozier’s hands, Miller turned to Frank Weiskopf of Maryville’s Realty Executives Associates to sell the property itself. When it closed, Miller was hoping to find a buyer who would take over the business and keep it open. A potential investor from Oregon even considered buying the store and keeping Miller as the owner for a few months, but that deal fell through. At the same time, Schreiber was ready to begin the next phase of his own commercial career.

A native of Brentwood, Schreiber moved to Knoxville to study at the University of Tennessee, where he received a degree in accounting in 2005. Soon after, he applied to the Knoxville Police Department in pursuit of a dream. of a lifetime of law enforcement service, and while he enjoyed the job, his restless mind was constantly restless, he said.

“I immediately started thinking about ways to improve the police car, and that’s when I created a microphone hang-up system,” said Schreiber, describing the concept of his. start-up, Magnetic Mic. “I created and launched it, not knowing it would take five to seven years to get off the ground, but when I enlisted my cousin and business partner to help me run it, in 2015 we started. to have enough sales and market appeal. fulltime.

That same year, he left the KPD, using his experience as an officer and his contacts in the field to generate interest in Magnetic Mic. The concept, he added, is simple.

“Instead of fumbling around to hook the microphone onto an old metal clip, we made it incredibly easy by using the magnetic pull,” he said. “You just bring it closer and let it go – that’s how we marketed it, actually. When the agents came to our trade show booth, you would immediately see a smile on their faces, and all of them would say, “I struggle with this all the time. This is a great solution! ‘”

They patented their invention, and as it grew, the Schreiber family did the same. He and his wife have a 4.5 year old and a 10 month old, and last year, ready to do something different, he sold his stake in Magnetic Mic to his partner and started looking for his. next business. Although he was initially hesitant to buy a franchise, the owners of Hello Garage, based in Omaha, Nebraska, convinced him.

“They specialize in garage flooring, epoxy, cabinetry, storage, organization, lighting – everything to ‘elevate the garage to the front door’,” he said. -he declares. “They also created a kind of family culture that I fell in love with, and as I digged deeper into the franchise, I felt like they were checking all of my boxes.”

His broker, Knoxville-based David Stanley of Avison Young, suggested finding a location that would not only be large enough to meet the needs of his Hello Garage franchise, but that could also provide space that Schreiber could rent to generate as well. rental income. The Eagleton Hardware building did the trick and the sale closed earlier this month. Schreiber plans to use the garage space, which has a concrete ramp and loading dock, and build a few offices there, but the rest of the building will be available to interested parties … and more late, the craftsmanship of his bones has Schreiber’s brain thinks of a number of possibilities.

“I want to open everything up, have it just like a shell and just sit here and breathe for a minute and say, ‘What can we do with this space?’” He said. “All the plans are in the air, but I can see a coffeeshop, with maybe a boutique, à la française, à la française, inspired by Joanna Gaines, and at the same time, we don’t want to let go of the past .

“I would love to incorporate the hardware theme into everything we do because I think that would be a super cool tribute to Mike. I bought this space as much for the potential as for a business need, and I just enjoy the vibe of a small town.

As for Miller, he spends time with his grandson and his Midland ritual. It’s a strange feeling, not to follow the daily routine that he has for a quarter of a century of his life: unlocking the front doors, going down the display counter and lighting the old kerosene stove around which his regulars got together sometimes.

These clients, many of whom have become his friends, are what Miller will miss most, he said.

“Over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of them who’ve been coming over there all the time, and when I met them like in Midland, they say they’re going to miss it,” he said. -he declares. “It was really something to be a part of – almost 70 years as a hardware store. “

Steve Wildsmith was editor and writer for The Daily Times for almost 17 years and continues to work as a freelance on entertainment-related topics, local performances, and East Tennessee artists. Contact him at [email protected]

Source link