100 years in business

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Edwards Hardware at 22217 Main St., Courtland, kicks off its 100th anniversary celebration with a ribbon-cutting hosted by the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce. Participating, from left, were Courtland Mayor Danny Williams, Kim Williams, Vicky Whitfield, Ginger Lacasse, Whalan Whitfield, Warren Beale, Margaret Bryan, Kim Faison, Milton Futrell, Bob Edwards, James Scott, Leeann Alexander, George Collins, Robbie Purvis, Garland Bryant, Hunt Story and Madison Edwards.

COURTLAND—Bob Edwards’ after-college plan involved returning home to the family business to get some experience to go along with his business management degree from James Madison University.

“I’m still getting that experience,” said Edwards, whose third-generation Courtland hardware store is celebrating its 100th year in business.

“I thought I was going to come back (for a little while),” he said about graduating from the college in Harrisonburg in 1979. “I had no plan, but wanted to get some management under my belt.”

Edwards learned the business from his dad, who learned from his dad.

“I grew up here working and pushing a broom,” he said.

Herbert Edwards and his brother, Will, opened Edwards Hardware on Sept. 1, 1911, next door to the current Courtland Town office building. The store burned down in the 1930s and was reopened at its current location on Main Street.

Herbert Edwards became ill and his brother took over sole operation of the store. After Bob Edwards’ father, the late Hank Edwards, returned from World War II in 1946, he worked for his uncle, eventually buying the business from him.

Hank Edwards owned the store until he passed in 2004 at age 88.

Over the years, the business expanded more than once. Edwards Hardware acquired the former Manry-Rawls building next door, knocked a hole in the wall and located its paint department there.

The store also expanded into the spot formerly occupied by McLemore Drug Store. An old smokehouse was torn down behind the store; the space is now occupied by the garden center and lumberyard.

Edwards Hardware employs eight full- and part-time workers, including Ginger Lacasse, who has been there for 24 years.

“I enjoy the work,” said Lacasse, who works in the office, on the sales floor and wherever she’s needed.

She was also the caregiver for Bob Edwards’ mother, Margaret, who passed in June.

As for business, it’s not as brisk as Bob Edwards would like due to the economy and last year’s closing of International Paper in Franklin.

“Everybody was (hurting). Housing construction went in the tank,” he said.

Business was better from 2005 to 2007.

“The economy was booming,” Edwards said. “International Paper was going, housing was brisk, people were building.”

Whether or not Edwards Hardware will be operated by a fourth generation remains an unanswered question. Bob Edwards’ son, Paul, is studying economics at Virginia Military Institute.

“I don’t know,” Bob Edwards said about his son taking over the store. “He grew up here like I did.”

His daughter, Madison, a senior a Southampton Academy, plans to study equine management at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, N.C.