I Remember When: Chagrin Hardware and Supply

Rob Schwind has spent the better part of his 60 years manning the aisles of Chagrin Hardware and Supply. The store, opened in 1857, is part hardware shop, part antiques emporium; bolts and nails are located across the aisle from 1930s Christmas ornaments. Schwind, who still owns a stuffed dog his father bought at the store in the '50s, is Chagrin Hardware's longest-tenured employee and in-house historian.

My father was a carpenter, so I was in here from the age of 7. The store used to be two different stores, a hardware store and a grocery store. Then they combined it into one. On wet days, you can still see the sign on the wall that says Gold Medal Flour.

After high school, I needed a job. I got hired here. The owners [the Shutts, who took over the store in 1963] liked antiques. Rather than open an antique store, they just started combining antiques with the hardware. Everything was organized haphazardly. We operated on the "SWAG system" — sophisticated wild-ass guessing. Even after 25 years, I'm still happening onto things I didn't know we had.

Our safe's been here since the 1800s. It can't be moved. The people in the store across the street had one like it and tried to roll it, but it ended up falling into the basement. The thing's solid. The knob and handle of the door were knocked off during an attempted robbery in the 1920s, but that's as far as the robbers got. It still functions, but all we do is keep papers in it now.

I like places with history. I like to fix things. I don't have any specialties, except I don't touch paint. I make a big mess of paint. 'Scuse me, though. I have to help this man with his porch lamp now.

82 N. Main St., Chagrin Falls, 440-247-7504, chagrin.doitbest.com
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