by Dave Yanko
SASKATOON – Somebody claims to have built a better mousetrap, and
they're even calling it A Better Mousetrap.
Thomas carries on his father's tradition of
Maybe it really is better. Too bad for the inventor that his great idea arrives
at a time when most house mice are tethered to computers. Most,
but apparently not all.
Mayfair Hardware owner Bruce Thomas tosses two of the new devices
onto the counter for inspection by the thirty-something man standing
across from him. The man carefully sets one of the plastic traps
and then intentionally trips it, delivering a firm little ‘whack'
to his index finger.
He pauses a moment to savor the sting, then he says: "I'll give
Thomas tosses the traps into a paper bag and bangs out the purchase
on his cash register.
Mouse traps may not be in high demand anymore. But lots of things
at Mayfair Hardware aren't in high demand anymore. That's precisely
what makes the place so engaging to browsers and so useful to do-it-yourselfers.
Except for the old Pryex coffee percolators and the mason jar lids
that are no longer being manufactured, almost everything in the
23 by 30 metre store (70x90 ft) on Saskatoon's 33rd Street
is new. The Melmac dinnerware, the hanging metal matchbox holders,
the Frig-O-Seal containers – they're all new. You just don't see
them around much anymore. Some of this stock was long ago discontinued
and some of it is simply difficult to find.
"Do you have any deer whistles?" asks a woman who approaches Thomas
at the counter.
McHargue fixes a window in the back room at Mayfair.
Thomas rushes to a nearby wall laden with all manner of do-dads,
plucks a package off a hook and tosses it onto the counter. A deer
whistle, it turns out, is nothing at all like a moose or duck call
that hunters use to attract game. It's a gadget mounted on the exterior
of a vehicle that produces a sound when air rushes through it. This
whistling sound apparently frightens deer away from the moving vehicle,
thereby reducing unwelcome encounters on the highway.
"When these first came out – I can't remember where I bought them
– I got them for 10 dollars," Louise Wiens announces to no one in
particular. "Here, I get ‘em for two."
Thomas is used to this kind of comment. Ever since he and his father
opened the store in June of 1949, Mayfair Hardware has been the
last stop for the uninitiated and the first for those who know that
if Thomas doesn't have it, he'll try his best to get it.
"Dad kept writing down everything that everyone was looking for,"
says Thomas, 68. "And he kept trying to find it. I've been carrying
on the family tradition, I guess. Many times people will come in
here and they'll say they should have looked here first."
That's likely how two elderly women felt when assistant store manager
Bob McHargue showed them a potential solution to the moisture problem
in their basement.
On the counter where Thomas earlier exhibited plastic mousetraps
and deer whistles, McHargue placed a clear-plastic bag containing
a white granular substance that looked like 10 pounds of sugar.
He instructed the women to hang the bag from a rafter, position
a pail right underneath it and then sit back and wait for the product
to do its job. The bag can absorb an estimated 10 gallons of water
over a lifespan of around three months, depending on the amount
of moisture in the room.
"We get people saying they've looked all over for this product
and they didn't know where to find it, until somebody told them
they might try us," says McHargue, whose business card says: ‘If
we don't have it, you don't need it.'
McHargue says Mayfair's clientelle has grown younger over the 16
years he's been working at the store. People who grew up and left
the area now are returning to rejuvenate it, he says.
fancy glass stuff keeps on selling
The result is a continued trade in Mayfair's basic hardware products,
fine-tuned to meet the needs of people who live in older homes in
the Mayfair and Caswell Hill neighborhoods that flank the store
on the north and south. Mayfair doesn't carry any plastic plumbing
pipes, for instance, ‘it's all the old galvanized stuff'.
But those are needful things. Mayfair is also the kind of place
where you can drop in, browse around and almost always find things
that surprise, delight or amuse: Parcheesi games, Mother Goose figurines,
horses with clocks in their stomachs, old-fashioned washboards,
knives that cut through shoes, pot-mending kits. . .
Thomas admits his buying decisions today are based more on personal
curiosity than the likelihood any particular item will become a
hot seller. Yet invariably, according to McHargue, things that tickle
Thomas' fancy have the same effect on his customers.
"We'll say to him: ‘What are you bringing this stuff here for?',"
says McHargue. "But it's amazing how it sells."
Jean Wrightson, a Caswell Hill resident, has been coming to Mayfair
for years. She spoke of a special trellis Thomas found for her and
a home-improvement project that kept McHargue and another Mayfair
employee named Leo Mareschal occupied at Wrightson's house during
every spare moment of an entire summer.
"If you want anything," says Wrightson, "you come to Bruce's."
| Contents |
| Events | Search |
Prints 'n Posters | Lodging
Assistance | Golf |
© Copyright (1997-2012) Virtual Saskatchewan