06/01/2012 09:48AM ● Published by Style
Photos courtesy of Placerville Hardware.
In this day and age of large, imposing and sometimes impersonal warehouse supply stores, it’s remarkable that any family-owned business can survive.
But Placerville Hardware endures despite this popular trend. Since 1852, the “oldest continuously operating hardware store west of the Mississippi” and the fifth oldest business in California has served as an important historic landmark, tourist attraction, “museum,” and friendly neighborhood supplier of just about everything imaginable. On June 9, Placerville Hardware celebrates another significant birthday and plans to commemorate its golden heritage with old-time fun.
Since it opened over a century and a half ago, Placerville Hardware has changed names and ownership nine times. Back in the early days of the Gold Rush, the store furnished gold pans, picks, shovels and iron cookware to the miners of Old Hangtown. Today’s owners, Deanna, David and Albert Fausel have experienced the resurgence of gold fever with increased sales in these items – not found in major chain stores. Although the mercantile no longer carries dynamite and blasting powder, it does supply modern feverish prospectors with safer technical devices like metal detectors.
As the former rough and rowdy mining camp of Old Hangtown evolved into the more “respectable” and settled community of Placerville, the durable business stocked its high shelves with an inventory that reflected the shifting demands and changing needs of its customers. From fencing wire, farmhouse cook stoves, agricultural implements, guns and ammunition, power tools and fishing licenses to scented candles, crystal glassware, head massagers, light bulbs, cookie cutters and more, visitors have pretty much found what they’ve needed behind the swinging doors of Placerville Hardware. In fact, some old and unusual, hard-to-find items remain stocked within the store.
While its inventory has fluctuated with the times, the building has changed little. The brick edifice survived the ravaging fire of 1856 while under the possession of Isaac Nash. It weathered the blaze of 1912 which leveled the nearby Courthouse and managed to keep its doors open during the lean years of the Great Depression and World War II.
To mark Placerville Hardware’s 160th birthday, the Fausel family (also celebrating their 60th year of ownership and the 30th anniversary of the store’s expansion into the former home of the Mountain Democrat) invites the public to join them in commemorating the store’s outstanding historical achievement. “This family has always been respectful and proud of the store’s history and our customers have been as well,” Deanna says. “We appreciate that so much.”
Festivities will begin Saturday, June 9 at 10 a.m. (until 4 p.m.) with an introductory ceremony at the historic Fausel House on Pacific Street. This includes the “Passing of the Hammer” to Albert Fausel, third-generation owner of Placerville Hardware. Just like in the days of yore, a mule train packed with mining supplies and other goods will pass along Main Street. Other daily activities include gold panning, doll making, Dutch-oven cooking demonstrations and plenty of free, old-fashioned games for kids. The store will offer everyone a taste of miner’s stew and plans to provide plenty of door prizes and free gifts.
For more information about the celebration, call Placerville Hardware at 530-622-1151, or stop by the store at 441 Main Street.