LINCOLN, Maine — Larry Smart will end about 51 years of personal labor and 87 years of family history when Smart’s Hardware closes on Sept. 30 as part of a merger with Aubuchon Hardware, both parties in the deal said Friday.
The inventory of his about 5,000-square-foot store and its six employees — including Smart and his wife, Sandy — will transfer from Smart’s 45 Main St. storefront to the Aubuchon outlet at 245 West Broadway, said Ed Comeau, the Aubuchon store’s manager.
“It’s time,” said the 60-year-old Smart, who co-owns the business with Sterling “Boody” Osgood. “Boody and I want to pass the business on while we are healthy. We didn’t want to leave a mess behind for our families, and we didn’t have anyone come along that wanted to run the business.
“We had our best year last year, so it’s not that we are sinking,” he added.
Smart and Michael Mattson, advertising and marketing director at Aubuchon’s corporate headquarters in Westminster, Massachusetts, declined on Friday to disclose the financial details of the merger, which Comeau said was finalized on Sept. 11.
Smart embarks upon the transition with all of the mixed feelings any near-retiree would have. He both looks forward and will likely miss working at the store. He will lose the pressures that come with owning and managing a store and see again what it is like to work for someone else.
Smart said that Aubuchon officials had been offering to buy his business for three or four years. The decision didn’t come easily. His family started the business on Main Street in 1928. Called LE Smart, the business was a service garage that sold John Deere tractors and parts. Smart’s grandfather, Lawrence E. Smart, added Studebaker automobile sales in 1930 and sold oil drums and automobile gasoline tanks during World War II, when gasoline became scarce.
The hardware store doubled in size in 1979. Lawrence Smart Jr. retired from it in 1995. Osgood became a partner in 2003 and still owns the building at 45 Main St., Larry Smart said.
Buying Smart’s made sense for Aubuchon, especially in the crowded hardware store market in Lincoln, Mattson said. Besides Aubuchon, Lincoln has two SW Collins outlets, Benjamin Tibbetts Inc., Ware’s Power Equipment, Mardens Surplus & Salvage and a Wal-Mart.
“From a strategic point of view, we have been looking at various hardware stores in the area,” Mattson said in a telephone interview Friday. “It takes one of the players out of the equation. Just by the elimination of one of the direct threats it will [certainly] help us. They carry more or less the same products that we do, whereas SW does a lot more lumber and more building supplies than we offer.”
Like the competition it will eliminate, Aubuchon is family owned and has been since 1908. It operates more than 125 neighborhood hardware stores in New England and upstate New York, according to its website, hardwarestore.com.
Smart said he doesn’t know what will occupy his storefront when he leaves. It should become available for leasing by Oct. 15.
“It’s hard,” Smart said. “I have been working in this business since I was 8 or 9 years old. I will miss it. It’s been a great run.”