When Valley Hardware owner Agnes Braicich found her husband standing atop a ladder, when he knew he wasn't supposed to, she chewed him out.
But sometimes Jerry Braicich had to scale the heights to stock merchandise, even in his later years. He took care of inventory as part of his many tasks in the decades he and his wife operated the store.
After being in business for 60 years, Valley Hardware shut its doors for good Monday, the result of competition and changing economic times.
The locally owned hardware store located at 1355 N. Blackstone Ave. opened in Fresno in 1955.
Founders Louie Micarelli and Jerry Braicich were working at Valley Lumber in Fresno. When the two men lost their jobs in 1954, they opened the hardware store.
In the early 1960s, Braicich and his wife, Agnes, bought out Micarelli. However, Jerry Braicich died in February 1996, leaving Agnes as the sole proprietor. Now 94, she retired two years ago for health reasons. Since then, store manager Steve Andreotti has run the business.
Andreotti has been working at Valley Hardware since 1984 and has enjoyed his 30-year run.
"We've had so many employees and I've made so many friends," Andreotti said. "Every day was great; I've always enjoyed coming to work."
Andreotti said the business has struggled with increased competition. Harbor Freight Tools moving next door, for example, took away some business.
"They've taken a lot of our parking, and when they had their yard sales it hurt us," Andreotti said.
In the back of the store is the warehouse where Jerry Braicich used to climb the ladder. Towering shelves of boxes filled with locks, lock parts and other hardware are among the items that will be auctioned off July 26.
"The toughest part is right now," Andreotti said of the closure. "You just hope things work out, but this one here won't work out."
Andreotti locked the doors for the final time at 4:30 p.m. He will take with him his lock set and his blank keys. Everything that didn't sell during the liquidation sale will be auctioned on July 26.
"I want to thank everybody who's been coming to this store throughout these years," he said. "For Agnes and Jerry, thank you."
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