Sunday, October 3, 2010

Madison Park Hardware is being sold

Lola makes it official

To many of her longtime customers and friends, it’s been an open secret for many months that Lola McKee was in the process of selling the suspended-in-time neighborhood hardware store that she and her family have owned and operated here for the past 54 years. But as anyone who knows Lola knows, she likes to do things in her own way and in her own time. So we’ve held off on reporting the story until Lola was good and ready to make the formal announcement. Late last week she agreed that the time has come to confirm the news. The store is being sold, subject only to signatures on the final agreement. “We’re still playing with the lawyers,” she told us, but really it’s a done deal.

However, before anyone gets too torqued about the sale (the idea of which will certainly be disturbing to many), take heart. After the sale is concluded—probably in the next week or two—Madison Park Hardware will continue to exist in pretty much its current form. And it will still be a local establishment. The new owner, Adam Hagan, is a fifth-generation Madison Parker whose parents, Susan and Jim Hagan, and grandparents, Mitzi and Bernie Hagan, still live here in the Park. Moreover, the store will continue to be something of a family affair under the new management. “Adam’s mom is going to do the bookwork,” says Lola (“I’m training her”), and Adam’s dad will be filling in at the store when needed. For many many years, Jim Hagan has been the “Mr. Fixit” of the community, so it’s a natural extension for him to dispense advice and match customers with the right solutions in the store. For that matter, Adam himself is hardly a stranger to the store, having worked there during both high school and college.

Lola’s decision to sell the folksy store was driven by several factors: she turned 85 this year; her son Scott, who had been a principal player in running the store, died unexpectedly last December; and her daughter Jeri (known to all as Cookie) does not want to take over store management (“I’m already working 60 hours a week,” she says). So selling the store became something of an imperative.

One big question, however, was whether anyone would want to buy the store under the terms that Lola was hoping to sell it. From the very beginning, she says, her goal was to preserve Madison Park Hardware: “I wanted someone who would keep it a hardware store, who would keep the current employees, and who would care about the neighborhood.” Although she had several offers to do other things with the space, she stuck to the idea that it should remain a hardware store and be owned locally if possible. The end result, she says, is “the absolute best I could have got.” To which she adds, “I know Scott would be really happy.”
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Adam, who is 39, has been working in the store since January, just a few weeks after Scott’s death. His previous job was with a development company. He says that after fifteen years away from the store, “coming back was just like riding a bike.” Growing up in Madison Park, Adam attended McGilvra Elementary and later, Roosevelt High School as part of the school district’s bussing program. He’s a graduate of the University of Washington. With regard to what he knows about hardware, fixing things, and home projects he says “What I didn’t learn from my dad, I learned from Scott.”

While the store itself may not be changing all that much, the new and old store owners make quite a contrast, both in appearance and personality. Lola is quite short, while Adam is extraordinarily tall. Adam is relatively youthful, and Lola is, well, very very experienced. Lola is a woman of many well-chosen words, and Adam is definitely a man of few words. In fact, we accused him one day of being closed mouthed in our presence, assuming it was because of our reportorial role. “No, I’m always this way,” was his retort.

But while he may not say a lot, he certainly doesn’t have any problem articulating his vision for the store, which is one that many Madison Parkers will take comfort in. “The goal is to keep the shopping experience the same,” he tells us. “There will be some changes behind the scenes; but walking in, you shouldn’t notice a difference.” The current employees will remain, and the look and feel of the store will be retained. “It’s important to me that we have something that stays like it's always been here in Madison Park,” he says. “Hopefully, the community will continue to support the store.”

For her part, Lola says, “I have high hopes about the store. It will be fine.” And with regard to her personal plans? “Oh, I’ll be in the store from time to time as Adam needs help,” she says, noting that she’s only selling the business, not the building. So she will continue to be a Madison Park business owner, now of the landlord variety. She says she expects to continue her involvement with both the Madison Park Business Association and the Community Council. But the only upcoming event on her calendar, she reports, is her trip to Hawaii in December. Her daughter Cookie, meanwhile, will be moving in with her as soon as Cookie sells her own house.

From her vantage point behind the store (she lives just across the alley), Lola will be able to easily monitor the progress of Madison Park Hardware under its new regime. This apparently doesn’t intimidate Adam, however. In fact, he says he welcomes Lola’s role as an advisor. “She’s the best one at restocking,” he notes, "and at telling us what we’re doing wrong.”
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[Madison Park Hardware is located at 1837 42nd Avenue E. We will post a retrospective later this year on Lola’s long tenure at Madison Park Hardware. In the meantime, we invite you to share your thoughts on this significant piece of neighborhood news. You can do so by clicking on “Comments” below.]

3 comments:

  1. Interesting timing with Ropa Bella leaving and Key Bank arriving along with Madison Park Hardware not going anywhere.

    I know a lot of us long time Madison Parkers wish that nothing would change. We took it for granted that there used to be four gas stations in our neighborhood and amazingly we were able to conveniently handle our money transactions with only one bank. But now it's more important to have more banking options than it is to have a choice on where to pump your own gas or tune up your car.

    When I first read the headline to this blog I thought, "Oh my God not another bank!" But amazingly Madison Park resident's prayers were answered before they ever got into the kneeling position.

    If there was ever a person who "talks the talk and walks the walk" it is Lola McKee. We all know she could have "cashed out" and walked away from the building and the business with the "big bucks", but she didn't. Everything for which she has ever lobbied, supported or accomplished throughout the years has enhanced the liveability of our beloved neighborhood.

    Ensuring that Madison Park Hardware stays "as is" and to be operated by a family, the Hagans, who probably personally knew Judge J.J. McGilvra is a wonderful gift to all of her neighbors.

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  2. So cool to have this kind of mentorship going on. Congratulations to Lola & Adam!! Few businesses in the world today, possess this kind of ethic & vision for the future.

    !!YAY!! for everyone involved in this win-win deal,
    and fond remembrances to Scott..
    Madison Park Hardware is a charming little store.
    ~Marcia

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