Mel Hales’ favorite part about owning a hardware store is the people. The people he encounters are like characters in his own personal sitcom.
“They don’t just come and ask for what they need,” said Hales. “They ask for absolute assistance.” He tries his best to keep everyday at his hardware store light and with a sense of humor.
For the past four years, Hales Hardware has been a hallmark at 199 Broadway.
Its bright and friendly yellow sign doesn’t fail to draw one in. Hales’ friendly demeanor makes you instantly feel at home.
Like other businesses, the recent novel coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic hit Hales Hardware out of nowhere.
Although hardware stores were deemed essential by the governor’s orders, Hales still worried about how he was going to keep doors open safely.
“It wasn’t just about being available,” said Hales, “it was about actually putting yourself on the line. When you first hear things, your initial reaction is ‘okay if they let us stay open, does that always mean we choose to stay open?’”
“Your initial reaction is ‘how will people conduct themselves?’ You’re basically a glorified cashier. You’re a cashier fundamentally, regardless of what you’re selling and of the other customer service things that go with a hardware store.”
When he first heard about the state’s regulations and response to COVID-19, it felt unreal.
“We live in a HBO special and this is a sci-fi movie and that’s exactly what it felt like,” said Hales. “It’s just really a sci-fi movie, and it was. It is a sci-fi movie.”
The store took a dent to revenue.
“They let us stay open and the sales went down drastically,” said Hales. “But we still made some kind of income.”
When the Mid Hudson Region officially went through the phase two reopening process, Hales decided to get more serious about keeping his store safe.
“I just got more serious about signage, about not coming in the store without a mask and things like that,” said Hales. “Everything just had to be more different.” Hales recently procured more face masks, and plans to give them out to customers who don’t have face masks.
Although Hales said he expects a second COVID-19 wave, he’s still keeping his doors open for now.
“It’s an interesting place,” said Hales.