Pleasants Hardware to close flagship store; possible sale of chain in the works

After 100 years, Pleasants Hardware no longer will operate a flagship store on West Broad Street.
The iconic Richmond hardware business told employees Tuesday that the company will close the store at 2024 W. Broad St. around Feb. 27, employees said. Workers were notified of the layoffs under the federal Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
Meanwhile, the eight-store Pleasants chain is being sold, the employees said they were told. C.F. Sauer Co., the Richmond-based global food manufacturer, has owned Pleasants since 1989.
James T. Hatcher III, the hardware company’s president and the third generation of his family to run the venerable chain, could not be reached for comment. Mark A. Sauer, executive vice president of C.F. Sauer, declined to comment.
Erlan Marshall, a Richmond police lieutenant who has been shopping at the store for years, said Thursday, “It’s hard to see it go.”
Marshall said what made Pleasants a destination was that the store carried products or could order merchandise no other business had.
“To see them go is (tough),” he said. “What can you do to stop them from going?”
It is not certain what will happen to the remaining stores once the location on West Broad Street closes and the chain is sold to an undisclosed buyer.
But Pleasants apparently has nixed plans, according to employees, to move 1.5 miles west to a new spot to make way for a planned retail development at its current location that will include the region’s second Whole Foods Market grocery store.
That mixed-use project, called The Sauer Center, is being developed by Sauer Properties Inc., a division of C.F. Sauer, which has its corporate offices and manufacturing operations next to Pleasants at West Broad Street and Hermitage Road.
Demolition of the Pleasants store is slated to begin this spring so construction can begin on the Whole Foods store.
Pleasants distributed letters to employees Tuesday outlining the store closing through the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, a federal law that requires employers to provide 60 days of notice before closing a location or laying off large numbers of employees.
“The difficult decision to eliminate these positions was necessitated by the closing of the location. The facility closure and layoffs will be permanent,” according to the letter distributed to employees.
The store employs about 100 people. Full-time employees will get a severance package based on years of service, the letter said.
At the West Broad Street store Thursday afternoon, several regular customers said there seemed to be an air of sadness, with employees worried about their future and customers concerned about losing a place where they had shopped for years.
One customer after another talked Thursday about how Pleasants was where they turned to meet their hardware needs and how they always felt they could find just what they needed, whether that was an amber reflective lens for a fence post or a clothesline spreader.
“Anytime that you needed something from a hardware store, this is where you came,” said Glen Lambert of Hanover County who, with his wife Joan, began shopping at the store in 1984. “They’ve always carried the odd stuff.”
Rob Evans, 64, said he’s shopped at the store for more than 30 years. He said it was close to home and where a couple of generations of family had gone.
Evans learned the store was closing from employees. “It’s kind of disappointing, you know,” he said.
Pleasants has operated from its current spot on West Broad Street since in 1976. The store underwent an expansion in the early 1980s, including adding a second floor.
The original store opened in 1915 at 1607 W. Broad St.
Because of the Whole Foods store, Pleasants looked elsewhere to locate its flagship store.
In late 2014, it signed a lease to take space at 4402 W. Broad St. that had been used by Motleys Asset Disposition Group, which moved its headquarters and operations center in 2014.
Pleasants had planned to renovate the existing structure there but decided last summer to build a new flagship store at 4402 W. Broad St., just east of Westmoreland Street, rather than renovate the existing structure.
Contractors had gutted the building down to its steel frame and roof in the spring. But work stopped on the project in late June as Pleasants hired an architect to design a new building.
But no construction work has been done on the new location since the summer.
Customers bemoaned the flagship store’s fate Thursday, saying they would consider shopping at one of the suburban branch stores but are dreading the thought of going to a big-box retailer.
They said it was hard to imagine another store replicating Pleasants’ selection and the knowledge and care employees brought to their jobs.
“I think they shouldn’t shut down. They should leave it,” said Eric Branch, who has been coming to the store “since I been old enough to shop (for) hardware.”
Asked where he’ll shop for hardware from now on, he laughed. “That’s a good question.”
Joan Lambert shared the sentiment.
She and her husband, Glen, went back into the store to stock up on hard-to-find items after they learned that the location was shutting down.
“Pleasants is a fitting name,” Joan Lambert said. “Everybody is pleasant.”

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