Losing Touch

Heralded as one of the last great old-fashioned hardware stores on the west coast, Hardwick & Sons has called the heart of Seattle's University District home since Charles Dean Hardwick first opened the doors of his secondhand general store during the Great Depression back in 1932.

87 years and four generations later the storefront has evolved into a specialty tool shop and hardware emporium that’s as much a one-stop-shop for home improvement as it is a living museum.

From screwdrivers to scythes, reused cardboard boxes to Japanese hand saws there are over 1.2 million items on the shelves - a couple you need, a few you want, and many you never knew existed -- almost all are priced with handwritten tags.

Inevitably the eye is pulled upward; the place is packed with clever objects - hanging from the walls and rafters you’ll find ice axes, kerosene lamps and kitchen stools mixed in with model airplanes, oil paintings and old family photos.

In the era of big box retailers like Home Depot and Lowes, Hardwick's has remained a local favorite. Even through the rise of online shopping and the dwindling of retail storefronts - in Amazon's hometown - Hardwick's has held on. But after nearly nine decades in business, Hardwicks is ready to shut its doors. In just the last five years property taxes have jumped from 9k to over 40k (KIRO 7). The city is changing; the world is changing. Rapidly.

On one of my first visits to Hardwicks I heard a couple bantering in the aisles -- about how places like this need to exist. How we need to shop for certain things in person. Touch it. Hold it in the palm of our hand to know if it’s right. There was a tone of disdain for our new societal norms, and an air of pride in having rediscovered the satisfaction of an all-too-recently-antiquated way of life.

In an age of increasingly digitized experiences are we conscious of what we’re losing in the name of convenience?
Should we be so eager to buy into a world that’s run on a screen?

Hardwick & Sons may have some dust on its shelves - but who’s really losing touch?

Seattle, Washington
April 2019

Written and Photographed for Range Magazine