Tim Snapp, manager of Lynn Garden Hardware for 25 years, helps out R.C. Hammonds, a frequent customer who has been buying at the store since 1943. Photo by Erica Yoon.
LYNN GARDEN - The building that has housed Lynn Garden Hardware was built before the end of World War II along a gravel road that eventually became a four-lane running through a growing community.
The community is no longer growing, but "big box" home improvement stores are. These are some of the reasons manager Tim Snapp considered when he decided to close the Lynn Garden landmark at the end of next month.
"The younger generation coming along has a different mind-set," said Snapp, the hardware manager of 25 years.
"When they think about needing something for home repair, their first inclination is the big box stores (like Home Depot or Lowe's) because they feel like they have a broader selection, but that is probably not as specialized as a small-town store like ours.
"A dollar is worth a dollar, and in a dollar-conscious society we're sometimes unfairly targeted as high priced or non-competitive. Those big box stores have big box expenses. There's just that special service you can only get here, and that is one thing that I think people of the next generation will miss out on."
Today's homeowners are different from those Snapp and other Lynn Garden Hardware employees saw years ago. Then, people often did their own home repair and improvement projects. Today, they often call in a professional.
But over the years, folks at Lynn Garden Hardware were there to help homeowners who did their own work.
"I have sometimes thought of myself as a teacher, in some sense. I can teach someone something every day I come in here about home repair," said Snapp.
"We've had employees that have stuck with us for over 10 to 20 years, and customers for longer than that. I think one reason is because the less turnover we have, the more experienced staff that was here to give that person advice on those items.
"Maybe they are looking for a lock set, or need a certain pipe. People will look at us because they know we can do it right away instead of having to wade through the crowds, and even then, they may not have someone experienced enough to do something like thread a pipe or cut a piece of glass."
Snapp is proud of the loyal customer base the store built over the years. He said that is the reason it was able to stay a part of Lynn Garden as long as it has.
"People, like this guy who makes his living as a plumber, I don't know what he's going to do because we have some parts and pieces that he can't find anywhere else, and he gets out quickly," said Snapp, pointing to a Kingsport-based plumber holding a handful of pipe.
Snapp feels like the welcome mat was pulled out from under Lynn Garden.
"The post office was gone, then the school, then the bank. That is a community base, and usually people tried to do everything in one trip in one neighborhood. It was special here," said Snapp.
"You just know people. You know them and the projects they were working on, and they brought their kids in when they were just toddlers. And now, those kids have kids of their own, and they would bring them in here. They are our neighbors, and we'll miss them.
"Why just yesterday, I let a little one weigh a pound of nails. It's those little things that can become part of a memory, and that's what kept us up. People remember who helped you, who solved that problem, and who made you feel at home."
The store will close June 30. An auction will take place after that to sell off the building's furnishings and the leftovers.
"I guess that's when it may sink in. I don't know. I have a lot of memories stored up in this place, and I think a lot of people from Lynn Garden and Gate City and Kingsport do too," said Snapp.