Three Generations of Beach Boys
by Cate Murway
The hardware store on the corner of Route 413 and Ford Road has been a steadfast member of the Bristol community for 65 years now. Historic general stores and hardware stores, long a fixture in America’s small towns, are not only places to find much-needed staples; they stock a myriad of supplies and are quite in vogue as nostalgic destinations. The history of ‘hardware’ stores predates that very name for them, going back as far as medieval England, where they were called ironmongers, sellers of iron, dealing in hard goods, versus soft goods, like cloth.
Entrepreneurs are a crucial component to the local economy and savvy consumers should go out of their way to shop at small independently run stores. Whether customers need to remodel a living room or fix a drain, the name of Beach's Hardware, a family owned and operated fixture celebrating 65 years on June 3rd, and spanning three generations, comes to mind. Store ownership has passed down through the hands of three Beach boys who have carved out quite the niche in Bristol. People just know if anybody’s got it, it’s Beach’s Hardware!
They certainly have the advantage in customer service, offering one-on-one attention. Small hardware stores rely on their authenticity to attract new customers and keep repeat customers coming back, combining that with the best quality products, competitive pricing and outstanding service.
The late William George and Florence Edna Beach, Robert William “Rob” Beach’s grandparents, were the first generation who started the original store in the 2- story part of the current building. They lived upstairs.
William had been employed at the SKF Tool and Die Company in Philadelphia while WWII was going on.
During the 1940’s many of the young men went to serve their country but the owner of SKF told the recruiters that “ball bearings were used for bullets. We’re making ammunition and artillery here.” The SKF employees were unable to enlist.
Rob’s grandparents moved from Philadelphia to the nearby residential neighborhood of Fergusonville before moving above the store. His grandfather drove his used 1950 pickup into the city to get supplies for the business.
The next Beach’s Hardware vehicle was a 1968 Chevy truck that was used for 20 years. It has been restored, and sports fabricated “original” wood stake truck bed sides bearing the Beach’s Hardware sign.
William studied the market, purchased merchandise carefully and began to make a profit.
The decade of the 1950’s saw the most rapid store growth, especially during ‘52-’58. More product and more space was needed while the store was a hub of activity, providing the material and the tools that gave rise to nearly everything in the growing community as the neighboring Levittown was built up.
Their son, William Robert Beach and his Irish-born wife, Eleanor, have continued to run the store and Eleanor is still ‘doing the books’, for almost 40 years. Bill started “working” in the store when he was 6 and had only one interview for a different job right after graduating from high school. The kid who worked at the store became the man who worked at the store, and then the owner.
Rob Beach and his wife, Tracy are the third generation, soon to be the parents of three children. Their son, Landon William, at times, comes into the shop to be with his dad. Rob started working in the family shop in the summers when he was 14, sweeping the floors, cleaning the shelves, and dusting the products.
Rob has the humility of a small-town entrepreneur and the enthusiasm of a millennial, truly passionate about his business.
The store is bursting with hardware, paint, pesticides, fertilizers, motor oil, and electrical supplies, vegetable seeds and grass seed, cleaning supplies and chemicals for pressure washer and deck cleaning, car cleaners, rags and tire cleaners. And they got you covered with Live Bait.... hooks, line and sinkers!
Fixing any size screens and windows and rewiring lamps are their expertise! Cutting car keys and house keys are a big staple. Chances are quite excellent you will leave with the right key cut correctly.
Yelp review: “This place is great. I love the old mom and pop feel. These guys know their stuff too, about everything. And if you need a key cut that is guaranteed fit first try this is the place. And their prices are very competitive... Let’s keep the smaller places open.”
That is obviously what they key in on.
“Three years ago we started with Pittsburgh Paints “PPG” [paint and glass] and at last count we had about 1300 products made in America.”
The flags are without a doubt ‘Made in the USA’, 3x5 full flags and “little ones the kids can wave”.
Let’s continue to only buy American flags made by Americans in the USA!
From snow shovels to grass seed, they have the goods to keep homes looking their best year-round and they are stocked with plenty of items for just about any do-it-yourself projects.
Most likely, if they don't have it at Beach’s Hardware, either it isn’t made or you don't need it.
Satisfaction is derived from knowing that people come to them for service, knowledgeable help [they recommend local plumbers and electricians] and convenience.
Service is the name of the game for a small business but the real advantage is that the owners know the neighborhood, know exactly what kind of wall anchor the plaster-and-lathe wall you’re mounting a shelf on needs. They are able to offer more than a "tuppenceworth”, better advice about the choice between a chain saw and a jigsaw. Buying galvanized widgets anywhere else would never be quite so much fun!
Bill’s father told him, “Price it right. Treat them right. And they’ll be back.”
Standing around and jawboning is not frowned upon here, a place where civic life and business is still face to face and deeply personal and there is actually really someone who can help a customer locate a certain kind of 'thingamabob' that fits onto another kind of 'widget' and allows a sort of 'doo-dah' to work. While folks could opt to go to a big box store for nuts and bolts, but the complexity of some of which are so incredible, you’d need a PhD to fully understand them, they still choose Beach’s Hardware!
This hardware store has its own charms; its own aesthetic pleasures. Its very presence is an argument for local character over the bland big box.
Listen to the worn wooden floors creek as you walk from one room to the next and lose yourself looking through nuts and bolts….. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Beach boys sincerely aspire to keep generating the dust of productivity, keep serving all the local skilled trades-people and keep empowering everyday people to make things, to keep serving as a symbolic hub for a small town, for decades to come. They are truly the “nuts and bolts” of the community, continuing to innovate and create value for their customers with the contributions of this third generation, and those little cameos of interaction that brighten up one's day.
They are optimistic about the one-on-one service they provide and the years of expertise they can use to advise customers with their special knowledge. The Beach family actively engages in the community and practices good social responsibility with benefits for the Fire Companies, Police and the Senior Center, to name a few. The enthusiastic owners believe their business provides a unique experience that corporate stores cannot.
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Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-7pm | Saturday 8am-6pm | Sunday Closed.
Route 413 / 3101 Veteran Hwy
Bristol, PA 19007
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Bristol Township institution, Beach's Hardware, celebrates 65 years
By Crissa Shoemaker DeBree Staff writer | Posted: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 3:30 am
William and Rob Beach in Beach’s Hardware store Thursday, July 1, 2015. They are celebrating their 65th year in business on the corner of Ford Road and Route 413 in Bristol Township.
When Stephen Matejik needs a new tool or a part for something, he heads straight to Beach’s Hardware.
“My wife tells me to go somewhere else,” said Matejik, of Middletown. “I say, they don’t know nothing, those places. I’m going to Beach’s. They always have what I need.”
For 65 years, the Bristol Township hardware store has been meeting customers’ needs with everything from toilet seats — available in the pink and green that were popular in the original Levittown homes — to paint and lighting fixtures.
“You treat people right, you keep the pricing reasonable and you have what they want,” said owner Rob Beach. “Even though Levittown is 17,000 houses, a big store doesn’t care that they need a specific stem for their faucet.”
Rob Beach’s grandparents, William and Florence, opened Beach’s in June 1950 on the same corner of Veterans Highway and Ford Road where it stands today.
As Levittown grew, so did Beach’s. In 1957, William Beach built an addition to the store, more than doubling the floor space. He and his wife lived in an apartment in the back of the store.
“There was 17,000 more homes, so there needed to be more product to keep a lot more people happy,” Rob Beach said.
Rob remembers riding his bike to the store as a teenager and catching a ride home with his father, also named William, at the end of the day. Now 71, his father is semi-retired but is still in the store weekly, and Rob — who bought the business from his dad in 2009 — said he still relies heavily on him for advice.
“There was never a guilt put on (me) ... that you need to take it over,” said Rob, who lives in Burlington Township, New Jersey, with his wife and children. “If anything, my parents tried to detract me from doing it. There’s a lot of work involved. There’s a lot of time involved.”
Still, he said, an office job has never interested him.
“There’s always something different every day that comes in, that you haven’t seen before,” he said. “It’s always an entertaining thing every day. You don’t know what comes in the door. And I enjoy dealing with people.”
Sixty percent of the business comes from people who are buying for their homes and apartments, although Beach’s does have a loyal following of commercial and industrial clients, including multiple tenants of the Keystone Industrial Port Complex, formerly the U.S. Steel Fairless Works plant in Falls.
Beach said the Internet is becoming even bigger competition for his business than the big-box retailers. But at the end of the day, customers know they can rely on Beach’s for what they need.
“If you have a pipe burst in your house, you can’t wait three days for something to get shipped to you,” he said. “We’re an on-demand type of store. We’ve gotta make sure we have what people want when they need it.”