Not Your Father’s Hardware Store — Local store thriving
When Keeler Hardware closed seven years ago, Tom Sato, a 30-year Wilton resident, decided to give up his New York marketing career and lengthy commute to fill the void by opening Wilton Hardware. “We opened a few weeks earlier than planned in October 2012,” recalls Sato. “It was right after Hurricane Sandy hit, and we were the only place that was fully stocked. It was an amazing experience with so many people recovering from the storm.”
Despite competition from the big box stores and online retailers, the local hardware store continues to thrive. “We’re really here to help our customers solve problems. You can go to a lot of places that might be bigger or have more inventory, but try to find someone who really has the experience and time to guide you, that’s the real difference.”
More than just nuts and bolts, rakes and grass seed, Wilton Hardware stocks some cool new things you might not expect or ever knew you needed.
Starting with the fun stuff, apparently hardware doesn’t have to be boring or age-dependent, there is a small selection of toddler games and toys from local manufacture, Melissa & Doug, including puzzles, construction sets, and art kits. There’s also a junior bake set tucked away in the cookware section and they have a popcorn machine with free samples and sell Newman’s Own popcorn to take home.
You can also find ping-pong, tennis and other toy balls, including toys for dogs and there’s a clever collapsible rubber water dish and new-fangled device called the Tick Key, which is a flat plastic guitar pick-like piece with a keyhole that slides over a tick for quick removal. Sorry nothing really new in deer repellants.
There’s a new space age indestructible garden hose called Zero, which promotes itself as the “future of hose design,” and a Milwaukee tools portable Bluetooth speaker is a perfect fit for the workshop and toolbox of music-loving handymen/women.
Many new digital, WiFi and cloud connected smart devices are showing up in homes, and Wilton Hardware stocks some of the latest models of smart locks, thermostats, and alarm systems, that tout greater peace-of-mind and efficiency savings.
Constantly changing design trends require a revolving inventory of light and plumbing fixtures in the latest styles, function, and finishes, including all of the brush metals, wireless switches, and LED illumination options.
There are new, eco-friendly LED light bulbs, including the latest innovation that replaces old flickering, toxic florescent tubes. Flashlights and portable lighting continue to improve with brighter, more durable, rechargeable versions for lighting everything from closets and walkways to personal protection while walking the dog, jogging, or riding a bike.
Wilton Hardware also encourages communing with nature, with a wide variety of birdseed and feeders, including one to deter squirrel Houdini’s, featuring a tube inside a large birdcage, which lets birds in and out, but keeps the squirrels at bay. There is also a collection of hand-made canes and walking sticks for hikes in the woods—especially when you are using one of the stores maple sugaring kits, complete with tree taps, buckets, and instructions for boiling off some sweet maple syrup.
Nearly everyone comes in for paint so here’s a useful fact: Wilton Hardware will accept all the old unused paint cans that homeowners can’t recycle or drop off on Hazardous Waste days (they won’t accept them), and will safely dispose of them for free, anytime.
Being an entrepreneur himself, Sato has also helped other Wilton inventors gain exposure and traction for their products such as Nantucket Spider, a natural bug repellant; the Scridget, a pen-like tool, which helps scrape things off surfaces; and OnTopz, a new self-sticking silicon cup, bowl, and pan topper to replace cling wraps and Tupperware.
Sato is also a booster of civic pride, selling the popular WLT bumper stickers as well as Wilton hats and T-shirts.
Wilton Hardware knows its customer base and works hard to reflect their needs and sensibilities, some of which can have very little to do with traditional hardware. “We like to have some fun too,” says Tom. “We found a lot of the people like to relax after the job’s done so we sell cigars, beer coolers, and a wine fridge. And if I ever come back in a second life, I’d want to be a bird in Wilton because people here will literally brave a blizzard to make sure they have enough seed for the feeder.”