Eighty-six years and three generations later, the Beman family is transitioning their beloved Beman Hardware Store into the hands of Vinnie Pagano, a 10-year veteran employee and Southwick native.
Beman True Value Hardware has a long and storied history since its founding by George R. Beman in 1936. Beman, a Granby native, started as an electrical contractor wiring houses in Granby. He saw opportunity in the new electrical appliances coming into vogue in the early 1900s. To market these appliances, Beman purchased a former tobacco warehouse on Hartford Avenue. Later, Beman expanded into plumbing and heating, offering the sale and installation of new oil burners. Around 1941, Beman’s wife Louise Newton Beman, another Granby native, added hardware and paint to the store’s offerings.
As time passed and the Beman family grew, so did the hardware store. The Bemans hired more employees and acquired their plumbing, heating and electrical licenses. George and Louise’s son, Robert Newton Beman, became involved in the business in high school. After serving in the Korean War and living on Long Island while serving at the Suffolk County Air Force Base with the 103rd Fighter Wing, Robert and his wife Carolyn Bernice Clark Beman returned to Granby. Robert became a partner in 1963 and owner in 1967.
However, times forced the Beman Hardware business to change. The Vietnam War sapped the number of local workers, and as a result Beman Hardware switched to strictly hardware sales. In 1970, Beman Hardware joined True-Value Co-op, whose products they still market today. Business boomed, and to satisfy the demand for more space, the Bemans erected a new building in 1973 behind the old one, which was torn down.
The next generation of Bemans grew up inside the hardware store. While their mother, Carolyn, worked at the front of the store, Joan Russell and Dianne Myers fondly remember taking naps in the bathroom. Coloring the two sisters’ childhood memories is their passion for Beman Hardware. For Joan, “It [the hardware store] was forever there.” Joan and Dianne speak nostalgically of Christmas breaks spent doing inventory at the store with their family until New Years’ Day, when they would go back to school. Russell notes: “We were brought up to continue a strong business.” One of Russell and Myers’ marks on Beman Hardware is the 1995 addition of a paint shop.
Now in their 60s and approaching retirement, Dianne handles the accounting while Joan works with customers. They began discussing the future of the hardware store over a year ago and have been working with Vinnie Pagano for the past six to eight months to teach him the business.
Currently, Russell says: “Our main thrust is to make sure that Vinnie feels strong enough, content enough, and supplied enough with good people so that he can continue a strong business.”
A native and current resident of Southwick, Pagano graduated from Southwick High School as a member of the Class of 2010. Pagano earned an associate degree in computer science from Springfield Technical Community College and studied accounting at Asnuntuck Community College. Well-known in the area as a guitarist, singer and songwriter, Pagano often plays with his band Cold Shot at Four Dad’s Pub in Granby. Outside of music, Pagano has a passion for Volkswagens, woodworking and DIYing.
Pagano has already begun to leave his mark on Beman Hardware. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pagano worked closely with Russell and Myers to add Do It Best Hardware as a vendor to help alleviate difficulty in receiving merchandise. With his training in computer science, Pagano has been an asset over the years, helping the store owners navigate an increasingly digital world.
Through the transition, many aspects of Beman Hardware will stay the same. One of those is the sense of community and service. Beman Hardware has supported local high school sports teams, the town fuel bank, and other local charities and causes. Another of those is the practical expertise and willingness of the Beman Hardware team to help customers complete a project. Compared to competitors, “I think we’re more hands-on with customers that come through the door, and I like that part,” Pagano says. Pagano credits Beman Hardware’s team ethos and commitment to serving both the individual customer and the local community as a large part of their success and plans to continue these traditions well into the future.
As for the future of Beman Hardware, Pagano says, “there will be changes here and there,” such as adding new things to the store and phasing out products that are no longer needed by the local community. Some recent additions are new compliant light bulbs and power washers. One of Pagano’s goals is to bring in new customers. He plans on growing the hardware store’s social media presence and offering incentives to past customers such as digital coupons. “We’ll see what the future brings,” Pagano hints.