By Shawn Nowlin email@example.com
Hammerhead Hardware at 1505 S Colorado Street has been a staple in Salem since 1976. Now after serving the community for more than 40 years and seeing the city grow around it, the store will soon be closing its doors.
Since day one, Dennis Wantler, who founded the business with his father and brother, has owned the store. The most common transactions in that time include power tools, keys, locks, building materials and cleaning products.
Wantler says he learned a lot from his parents, most notably never to give up whenever adversity presents itself. “I grew up very differently compared to today’s generation. Discipline was something instilled in me at a very early age. I was taught the importance of respect and hard work well before I entered grade school,” he said.
Over the years, Wantler has gotten to know many of his customers and cultivated a loyal base. In 1985, Hammerhead Hardware opened another location that lasted for ten years on Peters Creek Road in Roanoke. One key to making a small business last so long in a small city, he said, is having a great sense of humor.
“You never know what someone is going through when they walk through the doors,” Wantler said. “When people feel that you value them as individuals, and not just a financial transaction, they tend to open up to you. Once that happens, the personalities come out.”
Many people who live nearby loved the convenience that the hardware store provided. “Back in the day, I would walk the Roanoke River at least four times a week from my house. Whenever I needed some particular item for my home, I would just pay Dennis a visit,” Charles Jeffrey, 81, said.
When Hammerhead Hardware first opened, the surrounding area looked vastly different than it does today. There were no restaurants, no 7-Eleven, no car wash.
“I have watched children grow into adults and have children of their own. Sometimes in conversation with the youngsters, they are shocked when I tell them how this area used to look. Some have jokingly said they don’t believe me. I, too, am amazed at the scenery changes made over the years,” Wantler said.
Before they close, Roanoke County resident Jim Childs plans on stopping by and wishing Dennis the best as he enters the next chapter of his life. Last week, longtime customer John Scheffey stopped by to bid farewell to his friend. “It’s something to be said about someone who makes you feel comfortable every single time that you see then. Dennis has been a great friend, and I’m happy for what’s to come next for him.”
Wantler hasn’t figured out exactly what he is going to do with retirement but said “whatever it is, I’ll certainly enjoy it.”