They say good fences make good neighbors — and this family knows how to build a great fence!
Leopoldi’s Hardware is celebrating 50 years of slinging hinges and handles to Park Slopers — a milestone its owners credit to the work of their late father, who founded the store in the 1960s and turned it into a beloved neighborhood establishment.
“It’s a great, great accomplishment,” said Joe Leopoldi. “My father built the name, he built the store, and we followed in his good footsteps.”
Joe Leopoldi has been running the Fifth Avenue store, between Seventh and Eighth streets, with his brothers Pete, Rob, and their 80-year-old mother Flo since his father, also named Joe, died in 1989.
The founding Leopoldi bought the store for “an offer he couldn’t refuse” in 1966, leaving his luncheonette business behind for the world of nuts and bolts, said his son.
The brothers chalk up the shop’s longevity in the face of the changing neighborhood to their prices, knowledge, customer service, and plentiful stock — the store’s aisles overflow with gardening tools, paintbrushes, and portable fans — and work ethics, which they attribute to their parents.
From behind the counter, Joe Leopoldi says he witnessed first-hand Park Slope’s evolution from one of the city’s seedier neighborhoods to a tony enclave inhabited by moneyed creatives and professionals.
Along with the change in clientele came a change in demand — customers once used to come into the store looking for items for small repairs, but now want to take up tasks such as painting and building themselves, according to one of the younger brothers.
“A lot more people are doing jobs themselves, years ago it was a little simpler,” said Rob Leopoldi.
But the market for some seasonal staples has remained the same over the half-century — people still flock to the shop for potting soil in the summer and shovels in the winter, according to the brothers.
The brick store is the last remaining old-timer on the avenue, which once had hardware emporiums every two blocks, said Joe Leopoldi. The family bought the building before Park Slope’s popularity caused rents to skyrocket.
The structure still holds some pieces of the past — inside, it still has the same wooden floors that the late Leopoldi used to walk on as he was curating his stock and the same ceiling fans hang over the coolers, hammers, and screws.
The community atmosphere has remained the same, too, said Joe Leopoldi.
“The neighborhood has really changed a lot, but we still know a lot of people,” he said. “It’s not just a business where we’re buying, selling things and saying, ‘Goodbye.’ ”
The shop has built up such a pristine reputation in the business, the brothers claim, that workers from chain store competitors often send customers their way when they are out of stock.
The Leopoldis say they’d love to see the shop stick around for its 100th anniversary — and customers are confident they will.
“They’ll be here forever,” said Park Sloper Chiarina B, who lives in Park Slope and has frequented the emporium for more than 19 years. “We should have more stores like them.”
Go buy a new wrench at Leopoldi’s Hardware [415 Fifth Ave. between Seventh and Eighth streets in Park Slope (718) 499–6563, ww3.truev