In 1921, the free state of Ireland was formed, Babe Ruth broke a world record by hitting his 138th home run, and an unassuming hardware store opened for business on Seventh Avenue and Third Street in Park Slope.
In 1929, the business moved down the block to the corner of Second Street, where it’s remained ever since, serving generations of Park Slopers’ hardware needs.
Tarzian Hardware celebrated its 100 year anniversary this month, marking a century of service to the neighborhood.
Current owner and manager John Ciferni inherited the shop from his mother and stepfather, who was a direct descendant of original founders Charlie and Marty Tarzian.
Ciferni began working full-time at the shop in 1996 after dropping out of college, starting in the stock room.
“I learned really early that when things go wrong, whether through natural disasters or whatever, we do well,” he said. “It’s a good business to be in, and that definitely has held through all the way through COVID.”
Ciferni worked his way up to the sales floor while his mother ran the shop, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to stay in the business long term.
After the Sept. 11. terrorist attacks, he enlisted in the armed forces, which he says instilled more trust in him from his mother. Upon his return home, he took over as Tarzian’s manager.
Having a family member to take the reins has been key to the shop’s longevity, along with owning the building, Ciferni said.
“It’s not easy working for a parent,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “A lot of businesses don’t make it because of that, they fall apart — they don’t have someone they can hand it to or they can’t get along.”
Ciferni has seen the hardware store through some of the toughest times to run an independent business. Both a Lowe’s and a Home Depot set up shop in Gowanus in his tenure, cutting into Tarzian’s bottom line significantly, but nothing prepared Ciferni and his family for the challenges brought on by online retailers like Amazon.
“I was always looking for that next retailer that was going to move in, be closer or whatever, what’s that competition going to be, but it turned out it was Amazon in the end,” he said.
Still, the shop has managed to remain a neighborhood staple in an ever-changing Park Slope increasingly dominated by national chains — something Ciferni credits to a neighborly spirit, his involvement with local groups like the Park Slope Civic Council and his commitment to staying open for locals through tough times like the pandemic.
“I need to be open and be here to provide stuff and just try to be a good neighbor,” he said. “And I think that honest approach comes through.”