Bozrah Home and Hardware closing after nearly 40 years
John Noblick said he’s been working since he was 13 years old. Now 74, the general manager and co-owner of Bozrah Home and Hardware said it’s time to “sail off into the sunset,” at least through the winter.
Noblick said the business will close for good by late December. A liquidation sale at the Route 82 retailer has been underway for the past few weeks.
Noblick said the “bittersweet” decision to close has been about two years in the making, and said a lot of his long-time customers have come by to wish him well. “They’re glad that I’m going to retire, but then say ‘Boy, are we going to miss you’, especially in serving their power equipment and hardware needs. A couple of them have actually teared up.”
The business opened in March 1983, but not until after a 10-year tussle with the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission. Approvals were finally granted, and Noblick said business was good, with a 7,200-square-foot addition added in 1988.
More space was later added, with customers relying on the retailer for sales and especially service for power equipment, as well as hardware.
The 2008 recession then hit, and Noblick said his business never really fully recovered. The advent of big box stores, and on-line retailers, such as Amazon, hasn’t helped either.
What hasn’t been a negative influence, though, is the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Bozrah Home and Hardware was considered an essential business, and people were coming in as they were doing more home improvement projects,” he said.
However, Noblick adds the “handwriting is on the wall for mom and pop stores. We are going to be stuck with big box stores and Amazon. People want instant gratification, and if businesses can’t offer what they want at the moment, you’ve lost the sale. Big box stores have a deeper inventory.”
He said businesses like his have to find a niche, such as better customer service.
The 19,000-square-foot building won’t stay vacant for long. Action Equipment Rental and Sales has purchased the site. and plans to move from its current Norwich location on West Main Street, as soon as the hardware store is vacated.
“Our building will make all the difference in the world for them,” Noblick said. “They really have little space there.” Noblick said Action will do some power equipment repairs, as well as focus on its business of renting construction equipment, tools, and party supplies.
Noblick doesn’t plan on staying idle, either. He expects to take the upcoming winter off, but then look to work part-time at a local power equipment dealership.
“I just can’t turn out the lights here, go home, sit in a rocking chair, and watch TV,” he said. “I want to stay active.” Still, he won’t work for a big-box store, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s.
“I couldn’t work for someone whose corporate management is to put people like me out of business,” he said.
Long-time customer Bill Adams of Norwich said he’ll miss the hardware outlet.
“I’ve been coming here for 20 years. I don’t blame John for retiring, but I’ll miss him. It’s going to be terrible for me, but that’s life, right? Nothing’s forever,” he said.
Noblick said he’s been taken aback by some of his customers’ strong reactions that he’s going out of business.
“I never realized doing business on a daily basis, treating people the way you’d like to be treated, could impact people’s lives to that degree,” he said. “I’ll miss not sharing my knowledge of power equipment and hardware with others. That’s why I’m looking to continue on a part-time basis.”
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