|By ANN ALLEN
ROCHESTER, Ind. — A woman lugged her screen door into Baileys’ Hardware in downtown Rochester and asked Bob Bailey if he would replace the screen.
When he said he would, she whipped out a can of paint and a brush and asked him to paint it while he was at it. He did.
“It’s all part of our service,” he said with a shrug.
Baileys’ Hardware is an old-time hardware that offers everything from pink plastic flamingos to plumbing, electrical and heating services. If a customer’s hammer handle breaks, Bob Bailey or his brother, Dave, will replace it. Whether it is a pitcher pump or an iron kettle, the brothers usually can supply it.
As the honored business of the year, Baileys’ Hardware, 88 years old and counting, will have an exhibit tent filled with memorabilia at the Fulton County Historical Power Show, June 16-18, four miles north of Rochester on U.S. 31.
If show goers grow weary, a visit to the store itself, located at 712-14 Main Street, in Rochester, might be in order.
There they’ll find an array of hardware items of the past and present displayed on shelves that stretch from the store’s wooden floor to its tin ceiling - most of them accessible from a rolling ladder that moves on a track.
The building has housed a hardware since it was built in 1912, going through a series of owners from then until 1918 when S.P. Bailey and his son, Max, formed Bailey and Son. After S.P. Bailey’s death, Max partnered with George Black and changed the name to Black & Bailey Hardware, a name that endured long after Black’s death in 1943 when Byron Bailey went into partnership with Max.
A third brother, Elliott, came in later as an employee. Max retired in 1953, selling his half to Byron who sold the store to sons Robert and David in 1973.
As third generation Bailey owners, the brothers have changed little about the store and its historical niche in Rochester. A display case containing nearly 40 waterfowl indigenous to nearby Lake Manitou in the early 1900s greets customers, not to be outdone by deer heads, ducks, a three-legged coyote skin and the skin of a gigantic rattlesnake a friend brought home from Texas. Mixed in for good measure is a collection of photographs of early Rochester and Fulton County.
A hunter’s paradise that offers ammo, fishing and trapping gear as well as selling hunting and fishing licenses, Baileys’ windows often are filled with outdoor gear and cast iron pots and pans.
While the store no longer sells John Deere equipment, saddles, wagons, horse harnesses and DeLaval milking machines, traces of those years linger in displays throughout the store.
The brothers did away with their paint department and now offer only white and touch up paint.
They sell supplies for modern plumbing and old-fashioned wooden drying racks, sell garden seed in the bulk and love to pass along good jokes.
In a store where time seems suspended, the Bailey brothers never stop waiting on a customer to answer the telephone. They wait until there is a break between customers. If they’re busy with customers, contractors and long-time acquaintances in a hurry fill their own order, write the charge ticket and leave it.
That’s the way they learned to do business from their father and uncle nearly 50 years ago - trusting their customers, going the extra mile, even painting a screen door. It’s part of their culture - one they look forward to sharing at the Power Show where they will display memorabilia from the store’s long history.
This farm news was published in the June 7, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.