This piece is the third in a four-part series of guest posts appearing this week. It was submitted by reader Robert Rizo.
When a small repair or a project make the people and businesses of Haight Ashbury feel pressure, Roberts Hardware has been the first place to check for local residents for years.
Roberts Hardware opened in 1931, by Robert Smith, a newly arrived German immigrant. And it has remained–among the many hippy-chic clothing stores, the upscale martini bars, and the busy eateries.
On a street where cannabis, Janis Joplin, and other Haight icons plaster store fronts, Roberts Hardware keeps a stark contrast: the outside of the store is moss green and well maintained, and the only the signs dominating the exterior in eggshell white announce: “Plumbing. Quality Tools. Electric.”
Just inside the threshold of Roberts Hardware, you can buy anything from fake rocks (great for hiding a spare set of keys), to Venus fly traps, and hundreds of odd bits of hardware waiting to become art or other projects. The store is a single level, with rows of shelf upon shelf of carefully organized and categorized merchandize, with a small checkout counter at the front and a carpentry and painting section dominating the back and sides of the store.
Stan Flouride, who will be turning 60 this year, became part of the staff 12 years ago. He’s a towering fixture of the store’s public face, and loves his job.
“It’s the best job in the world: you just listen to people’s problems, and then after you tell them what to do, they go home and do all the work,” Flouride says.
Flouride is somewhat of a local celebrity partly due to his writing, black velvet paintings, his history in the arts, and his current part in the Haight Ashbury tours.
Over the years, Roberts has helped keep the Haight from falling apart in all kinds of ways. “Roberts has helped with the bar before,” said Chris Dickerson, the afternoon Saturday bartender at Hobson’s Choice bar. “They have put displays up for us,” said Gus Vardakastanis, owner of the Haight Street Market.
Haight Street Market and Hobson’s Choice are not the only local businesses who rely on the expertise of Roberts Hardware employees; less than 100 feet away from the store, The Gold Cane Bar has a long history as a Roberts Hardware client–it’s been in business for over 50 years. “They are always helping us out with stools and other things,” says Jason Morris, Gold Cane’s bartender.
And the Haight locals know that if they can’t think of where to buy it, whatever they need will probably find it at Roberts Hardware. Kyra Schlebrowski comments that she was able to find a doorbell for her apartment. To Kyra, the little odd needs that can’t be satisfied by means of a quick trip to the corner deli make the local hardware store the logical choice.
But there is more than just going to the hardware store that makes it a treat for Schlebrowski to shop at Roberts Hardware; “I like that it’s a small business, It makes me want to shop there.” Schlebrowski says.
Roberts Hardware is not a DIY reference center, nor do they offer classes in home improvement at the store. But a little good advice when you don’t know how to choose between eggshell or gloss, PVC or copper piping, and other such questions is something Stan Flouride dispenses every day he works the aisles of Roberts Hardware, ready for tough questions, like the ones people think up every day.