Star Supply, a ‘Unique and Special Place,’ Celebrating 55 Years

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When the camouflage Ford Pinto with a slingshot on the roof disappeared briefly from the corner in front of Star Supply, the surplus hardware store received concerned calls.

Because it is so integrated into the fabric of the Mahoning Commons community, the disappearance of the iconic Pinto created alarm.

Karla Hodge, the general manager of Star Supply, said with changes being made to the easement at the corner, they decided it was a good time to refresh the paint while they protected the car. It is now back on the corner, albeit back a little way to avoid the work being done.

The Pinto is not alone as a mainstay in the community. Star Supply will celebrate 55 years in business this year with a customer appreciation celebration June 1. Although Hodge has yet to determine everything that is planned, she guarantees “it will look like a party.”

A camouflage Ford Pinto with a slingshot on the roof sits outside Star Supply.

That should not be too hard when both the outside and inside of the store already look like a party with bright, humorous signs and colorful, fun accents. The store continues to have the personality instilled there by Richard Rosenthal, who came from New Castle, Pa., and opened this unique business down the street from the current location. Rosenthal died unexpectedly five years ago, and his family, led by his wife, Connie, now own the business.

“We really feel it’s important to keep the core of this business tied to what Richard created,” said Hodge, who has been there 22 years and has served as general manager since shortly before Rosenthal’s death. “So we’re celebrating 55 years, and it is kind of bittersweet to do that without Richard, but we’re really grateful his wife continued this business.”

And exactly what is this business?

Hodge said when she is asked that question, it can sometimes be hard to put into words. There are many typical hardware store items – nuts, bolts, wheels, cabinets and windows – positioned near the unexpected closeout items – things that have a use, even if no one is sure what it is yet.

Long before reduce and reuse became part of trendy slogans, Rosenthal was already practicing them at Star Supply. An unused or broken piece of equipment might be taken apart, with the parts placed in baskets in one section of the store. Hodge points out parts are worth more to customers than the whole item.

“The closeout side of this business that changes definitely challenged some of my own personal thoughts of how to use inventory,” Hodge said.

Closeouts typically come from manufacturers located within 100 miles of Youngstown.

Although the inventory changes whenever something sells out, at this time there are storage totes from a manufacturer in Lordstown, locally sourced cardboard boxes, overstocks of Youngstown-made pillows and leftover glass bottles from a Boardman manufacturer, which changed its design. Small businesses going out of business may have equipment or other items that can be resold at Star Supply instead of scrapped. Right now there are items available from a reclaimed bowling alley.

Hodge points out sometimes items even come from the general public, like a family member cleaning out a garage and finding 30 doors, which were bought at auction sitting on pallets. She said it never hurts to give Star Supply a call before throwing such items away.

Star Supply is located at 875 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown.

Hodge said she is amazed sometimes at what items are incredibly popular, like the bin of black walnut and red oak wood pieces that must be refilled constantly, or the pieces of colorful plastic composite people buy by the cart-full.

“It just goes to show the way the community thinks about things, where you would see that and say, ‘That would be great. I could make a …,’ said Hodge, giving pause for the fill-in-the-blank ending. “There is a very creative mindset in the Valley, for sure.”

In a place where you never know what you might find, browsing is encouraged. So is bringing in an idea and brainstorming it with the staff. Do you need a piece of metal that’s a certain size or are you trying to figure out how to connect two items together? Star Supply’s eight employees, several with more than 20 years of experience, can help figure it out.

Hodge says that unlike many big-box stores, Star Supply strives for a friendly, knowledgeable staff that can provide personal attention to local customers.

“We understand the values of the people of Youngstown. We understand the hardworking grittiness of what growing up in the Valley means,” she said.

And it is not just the employees who are greeting customers when they come into the store. Customers see people they know, as well. Perhaps a cousin they haven’t seen since the last reunion or someone they played football with at East High School. Hodge said people come in and say they used to come with their grandparents when they were a child, and now they are bringing their own children. Hodge’s own children grew up coming in the store, and now her grandchild has started to come with her son.

“So this is a very unique and special place,” Hodge said. “It holds a lot of memories for us, but it also holds a lot of memories for the community, and we just really want to celebrate that at 55. We’re very appreciative we’ve been supported by this community for this long, and when so many other small businesses have not been able to continue – especially over the last few years – that this community sees Star Supply as an important part of the Valley.”

Pictured at top: Karla Hodge, the general manager of Star Supply, helps keep the legacy of the store alive along with Connie Rosenthal, the owner and wife of the late founder, Richard Rosenthal.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.