INDIAN HARBOUR BEACH, Fla. – Empty shelves tell a bigger story than just a store going out of business.
For South Patrick Hardware & Lumber customers, it's history.
The old-fashioned hardware store on South Patrick Drive is one of the last mom-and-pop hardware stores in Brevard County.
The store has tripled in size over the decades — the store is now 11 aisles wide. It has hundreds of handwritten display labels guide shoppers, alongside homemade signs cut from cardboard: "Vents $2.99 Ea," "Shims," "PVC Cement," and so on.
Operated by the same family since 1962, the hardware store's front counter features two adding machines, paper receipt books, rubber stampers and four numerical reference charts used to calculate a 6.5 percent sales tax.
"We still hand-write everything. I don't do nothing by computer," co-owner Rick Beyer told News 6 partner Florida Today.
Personalized service is a key reason why South Patrick Hardware & Lumber survived the Great Recession and fierce competition from big-box corporate retailers. But times change. A red-and-black banner hanging outside declares "Going Out Of Business: Everything Must Be Sold!"
"We sold the place. Not sure what I want to do yet," Beyer told a customer Wednesday afternoon at the counter.
The landmark Indian Harbour Beach hardware store's last day of operation is Wednesday, and remaining merchandise is on sale for 60 percent off — cash only. Unsold items will likely head to the auction block by Jan. 25. Beyer said he did not know the new building owner's plan for the property.
"It's walking away from a lot of memories. A lot of years, and a lot of memories," said former employee Mary Maffucci, Rick's sister, standing at the front counter. "I work for the school board, and people all over the county talk about this place. 'If you need something, come here.'
"When hurricanes came through, everybody came in. Everybody. They used to deliver. It was massive crazy," Maffucci said.
South Patrick Hardware & Lumber held out as one of the Space Coast's last remaining mom-and-pop hardware stores, alongside cohorts like S.F. Travis Hardware in Cocoa Village, Stebbins Hardware and Sharpening Service in downtown Melbourne, and the now-shuttered Melbourne Beach Hardware on Ocean Avenue.
Beyer co-owns the store with his brother Mike, continuing a longstanding line of relatives working inside the South Patrick Drive store. Their uncle Don opened the business back in 1962 during NASA's Mercury program, the same year that John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.
Rick and Mike Beyer's father, Jack — who flew 50 missions in Italy during World War II as an engineer-gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber — moved his family from Michigan to Florida in 1964 to join his brother Don as a store co-owner.
Jack Beyer went on to work at the hardware store until 2010, and he passed away two years later at age 91.
"You know how hard it was to get my dad to use this?" Maffucci said, tapping a credit-card reader. "He wouldn't even use a cordless phone."
Rick Beyer was 5 when the family arrived in Florida. He started working in the hardware store in sixth grade, picking up nails, sweeping and performing other chores. He went full-time in 1978.
After working at the store the past 46 years, he is now 58 and his future plans remain unknown.
"I'm going paint the inside and the outside of my house, and then I'll go from there. I'm too young to retire, so I'm definitely going to work," he said.
Now, empty pegboards and hooks line many aisles as the merchandise supply dwindles. Some bins hold dusty items inside yellowing packaging that were manufactured long ago. A small room remains dedicated to various PVC pipe fittings. In the back, an array of wooden tables, shelves and racks line the popular window-screen repair workshop.
"The big thing is, it's been a mom-and-pop. And people have come here over going to these other places," Maffucci said, referring to Lowe's, Home Depot, Walmart and other competing corporate giants.
"They've always been here to support this place and support the family. Indian Harbour, Satellite Beach, Indialantic — they've always been there to support us," she said.