LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It sounds odd, but just about every time Pete Hammer picks up the phone and says hello, there is someone on the line saying goodbye.
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Every phone call, every transaction brings Hammer a little closer to closing the doors of St Matthews Hardware after 96 years of business. His familiar promise -- "If we don't have it, you don't need it," sums up his secret for long-term success.
"You'd be surprised by how many people come in from 10, 20 miles away and they went to four or five hardware stores and every one of those hardware stores, when they didn't have it, would say we don't have it but you need to go to St. Matthews Hardware," Hammer said. "And eventually they'd trickle all the way down here and sure enough we had it."
The store was founded in 1921, and Hammer's father began working there in 1940. He eventually bought the place in 1960, and Pete Hammer then bought it from his father in 1980.
At the time, Hammer said he thought he would only work for about 20 years before selling it again. But he ended up staying much longer because of his loyal customers.
"There's been many times I've teared up and kind of wished them well, thanked them for all the years and years they've been coming in here," Hammer said. "So you have a little tear up and then you go on to the next customer."
The shelves are emptying quickly thanks to deep goodbye discounts. Hammer's last business decision will be what kind of party to have when he locks the doors for the last time on May 31. Hammer sold the building last year. It will be demolished to make way for a new bank.
Hammer smiles when he thinks back to the good times he's had.
"It's been a ball," he said. "It's been a blast. It's been excitement. I can't say I've ever had a bad day up here. That's huge for me. You know everybody says it's a tough business. But I think I was the luckiest guy in Louisville to be in a business like this over the years."