Good Conversations for 122 Years at Bye & Bye Hardware
LISBON, Ohio – Walk into Bye & Bye Hardware Co. in Lisbon and you feel like you’re stepping into a simpler time. The smell of fresh popcorn welcomes you as you enter, while fruit punch and homemade cookies are set on the counter for anyone to eat.
The original tin ceiling and wood floors from the turn of the 20th century are intact and the wooden trolley ladders are still used to reach high drawers and shelves filled with fasteners and hardware.
Townspeople stop in daily to say hello to the owner of the 122-year old business, Robert Bye. “I was always in the business,” he says. “It’s the only thing I ever knew from being a little boy and coming in here.”
Bye’s grandfather Howard Bye helped to open the hardware store with his three brothers in 1896 after buying Briggs and Morrow Hardware, a few doors down from Bye & Bye’s current home.
In 1923, Bye & Bye Hardware bought the P.M. Armstrong & Co. Hardware Firm and, to handle the expanding business, the brothers moved their store to where it is today, 124 S. Market St.
Robert Bye has owned the store since his father, Galen Bye, retired in 1979.
The store is a wholesaler of House-Hasson Co. hardware products from Nashville, Tennessee, but the building is filled with more than just hardware and cans of paint. “We sell a little bit of everything and whatever we can find that we think will sell,” Bye says. “If we don’t have it, we recommend different places for them to go find it.”
Among the products in the store are candles crafted by an Amish woman in Pennsylvania, scarves and table-runners made by Bye’s wife, Whiskey Stix gourmet pretzels baked in Salem and artwork featuring views of the town by both Bye and Lisbon Mayor Joseph Morenz.
Not all of the items are for sale. As Bye walks around his store, he points out an antique in almost every aisle. One is a gas stove that is well over a century old, he says. It was originally on the third floor of the building from when it was home to the Odd Fellows Lodge, a place where businessmen hung out.
Another antique on display is a 100-year old cash register. Instead of money, it’s filled with candy for visitors to take when they come into the store. “A lot of kids come by after school and they walk through to get snacks,” Bye says with a laugh. “We have our own little groupies.”
Both a 100-year old pipe cutter and a hand-spun machine to measure wire are still used in the store today, Bye says.
“I’ve always liked older things and antiques,” Bye says. “I make displays around the store and incorporate some of my collections of things and a lot of people want to buy them.”
Bye & Bye Hardware has six employees, each with “their own expertise that they can help people with,” he says.
After retiring from his full-time job, Bruce Craft didn’t want to just sit at home, he says, so he asked Bye for a job and has been working here for the past five years.
“I fix about anything from electrical, plumbing, rescreens on windows,” he says. “Anything that comes in, I fix it.”
Among the items Craft has fixed is a Tiffany & Co. lamp that needed to be rewired. “It was the most expensive thing I ever fixed here,” he says. “Everybody knows we fix things and they’ll bring in all sorts of things.”
One of Bye & Bye Hardware’s longtime customers, Gayla Thompson, stops into the store to fix her duffle bag. “The piece of metal that holds the strap onto the bag broke,” she says. “I could have gone somewhere and tried to find something else. But if I just bring it here they’ll fix it for me.”
Thompson has been coming to Bye & Bye Hardware 45 years. “Everything that you need you can find here,” she says.
As other businesses around Lisbon have closed, such as Morgan’s Drug Store earlier this year, and new businesses have opened, such as Numbers Brewing Co. in 2016, Bye & Bye Hardware has remained steady over the decades.
“It’s unique because Mr. Bye stresses keeping the store the same way it was in the 1800s,” Craft says. “It’s just the old-fashioned hardware store. Guys come in to sit and chat and they know they can always come in for good conversation.”
Pictured at top: Robert Bye has worked in the 122-year-old business since he was a small boy. His grandfather and great uncles opened the store.
Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
CLICK HERE to subscribe to our print edition and sign up to our free daily headlines.