Flint’s Hardware

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flint store celebrates 120 years

By Rupert Howell

C. H. Flint and Sons Hardware Store will celebrate 120 years in business on the Batesville Square with ownership by the same family this weekend with an anniversary sale kicking off Friday and a cook-out Saturday beginning at 10, along with valuable door prizes and give-aways both days.

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While the owners think it’s the loyal customers who have kept Flint’s Hardware in business for 120 years, customers return to Flint’s for the personal service that the family-owned hardware store has offered during the three different centuriesof business in downtown Batesville.

Louis Davis is the mechanic whose job it is to keep the small engines running and blades sharpened like his former boss, the late Armistead Flint, did for 60 years. Armistead and his  brother, the late Calvin Flint III, were the dominant figures in the store founded by their grandfather, during the much of the last century.

“I’ve worked on everything from line trimmers to mechanical arms,” Davis said while stating, “I didn’t hardly know nothing when I came here.”

After 14 years he has learned a lot about small engines and said he learned it all from Mr. Armistead.

He then explained that a customer came in with two prosthetic arms, both with loose screws. Davis explains that the man sat down and put his arms, one at a time, in the shop’s vise, while the mechanic drilled out the old screws, tapped the holes and put in larger screws to replace the old. According to Davis, they’re still intact.

Most who do business in the traditional hardware store wouldn’t be surprised by this. They have no minimum charge for mechanic work and will sell, or give, you one screw or nail rather than forcing you to buy a package-full. They still record credit purchases in a ledger book like one you would see on Gunsmoke.

Ben Flint and his younger cousin Cole run the business now. The older has been there since a child, about 40 years and 24-year-old Cole more recently settled in to the business where his grandmother, Betty, is co-owner.

What the laid back older cousin wants people to know is that Flints is still in business despite the nationally advertised big box stores that have saturated the country. He credits a loyal customer base for continued support and said knowledgeable, friendly service keeps customers coming back.

“Competing with big box stores changed the whole market in this type of business,” he said.

But at the downtown hardware store, “It’s still the same atmosphere. People can come in and sit around and talk. There’s no internet or fax machine,” he said.

His more energetic and younger cousin wants people to know is that their prices are often as good and sometimes much lower than those found at national chains and pulls out a sale flyer with sale items circled with a marker with their store’s regular price written beside the chain’s higher one.

Both Flints would like to see more retail businesses on the downtown square that is now checkered with vacant buildings. The older Flint knows that occupancy runs in cycles and says Panola Partnership, the county’s chamber of commerce, and Batesville Main Street organization is looking for a solution to the vacancies.

Vacant buildings or not, the tradition is alive and well while Flint’s will celebrate 120 years in Batesville with plans to celebrate again in 2014 on their 125th.