MOUNT VERNON — It was 100 years ago that the Titanic sank in the Atlantic Ocean, just four days into her maiden voyage. It’s easy for Bill Kramer to remember when this took place. It was right about that same time that G.R. Smith Hardware first opened its doors for business in Mount Vernon. “This boat’s still floatin’,” laughed Kramer, who is manager and co-owner of the business since 1999. Kramer started working at the store in 1990 before he and his father purchased the business from James McBride.
The local hardware store was first opened when Grant Smith purchased the Webber Banking Co. property on the southwest corner of Mulberry and Vine streets in Mount Vernon in 1912. Now one century later, “It’s the same as it’s always been — servicing the customer,” said Kramer of G.R. Smith Hardware’s philosophy. Kramer was quick to point out some newspaper advertisements from the 1930s which read, “Good service to you ... a pleasure to us.”
“That was one of G.R.’s sayings ... treat everyone like you want to be treated,” said Kramer. “If something’s working, you don’t change it. It ain’t broke. That’s what’s gotten us here. We listen to the customer and what things they’re asking for and try to carry stuff like that.”
Kramer has continued the tradition of the hardware store being a family affair. Three generations of the Smith family operated the business for 50 years. Kramer now manages the business with his father, Alan as co-owner. His mother, Janet, mans the office. And his wife, Denise, also works in the store.
The original building sat in the current parking lot area. Over the years, the business, and building, expanded. The original building was torn down in 1960 with a new building constructed on the west end of the lot.