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Interest in Small-Time Projects Reverses Brown’s Hardware’s Slump

MULCH, SOIL AND SEEDS were all been big sellers at Brown’s Hardware during the warmer months as people invested in their gardens during the lockdowns. (Photo: News-Press)

Idle hands do the devil’s work, hence the reason so many people dedicated their time at home during the coronavirus pandemic to tackling fixer-upper projects.

The staff at Brown’s Hardware in Falls Church has seen it all the past nine months as customers came in looking to knock out their honey-do lists.

“Almost anything you can think of, they did,” said John Taylor, the owner and manager at Brown’s. “You wouldn’t be making it up, even if you did make it up.”

And for as dark of a year as its been, it couldn’t have turned out any brighter for Brown’s. Taylor told the News-Press that the snowless 2019-20 winter had left the store in a bad spot. By the end of January, no snow shovels or ice melt had been moved and sleds remained untouched.

“At first I thought we’d close down. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” Taylor said. “But we were allowed to stay open, which was a good thing because people were going nuts at home not having something to do.”

Extra time to handle odds and end jobs have brought tons of foot traffic through the door. From patching holes in the wall to stopping a leaky toilet or painting the basement, Brown’s steered people in the right direction. Repairing screen doors was another task that had multiple customers coming in, according to Taylor.

One of the areas in which the hardware store saw exceptional growth was its gardening section.

“The yards out there are beautiful,” Taylor said. “They’re in the greatest shape they’ve been in in years.”

Mulch, top soil and seeds were a hot commodity throughout the spring and summer months.

In a normal year, Taylor said Brown’s would sell about four truck loads of mulch. That number was more than doubled this year to 10 truckloads. And seeds would barely make it to store shelves before being gobbled up by consumers.

Improving their house gave a boost to people’s mental health as well. According to a survey by CouponFollow, 90 percent of homeowners took on a Do-It-Yourself project during the lockdowns and more than 60 percent were successful.

Just as Taylor said, some of the leading projects were bathroom repairs, house painting and yard decor.

Industry News reported that quarantine was the top reason (55 percent) people said they chose to do a home improvement project during this time period, while another chunk said they did them just for enjoyment (49 percent) and one-third said it helped their mental health during the pandemic.