Oaks TW Hardware closes after 109 years in Southeast Como

Owner Patrick Clough and his dog Frankie have long provided a sense of community in the ever-shifting neighborhood, residents say.

Patrick+Clough%2C+the+owner+of+Oaks+TW+Hardware%2C+poses+for+a+portrait+with+his+dog+Frankie+on+Tuesday%2C+March+2.+Oaks+TW+Hardware+is+closing+after+109+years.

Emily Urfer

Patrick Clough, the owner of Oaks TW Hardware, poses for a portrait with his dog Frankie on Tuesday, March 2. Oaks TW Hardware is closing after 109 years.

Lydia Morrell, City Reporter

Patrick Clough has worked at Oaks TW Hardware for 52 years, and his dog Frankenstein — a neighborhood celebrity — has been perched in the window for about ten of those.

But after a 109-year run as a neighborhood hub, the hardware store is closing at the end of March, and Frankenstein, or Frankie, will be making friends in a different neighborhood.

Clough grew up in Southeast Como and started working in the store for 75 cents an hour at age 13. He bought it at 17 while attending Marshall-University High School in Dinkytown and established his business as a staple in the ever-shifting neighborhood. It has been a meeting spot for residents, situated less than a block from Van Cleve Park, so he has heard his fair share of gossip over the years.

“I used to say this is like a bar without liquor,” Clough said. “As we can hear more complaints, more sob stories. And people that come and play with that dog, they’re telling me that’s the best part of their day.”

Longtime neighbor Carol Horswill visits the hardware store twice a day to walk Frankie. She said the shop is the only place in the neighborhood that provides a meeting point for residents, students, landlords and employees.

“And consequently, it’s a useful place for those groups to get to know each other and develop a sense of community,” Horswill said. “Because otherwise, it’s not a neighborhood that can do that easily.”

Clough, 64, said he decided to close the store to join his wife in Kentucky, where she recently started a new job. He is also excited to be closer to their daughter, who lives in Florida. He said COVID-19 had no impact on the decision to move on. There were no buyers for the hardware store, and there isn’t a renter yet for the storefront.

He has kept the little shop bustling even as other small family-owned businesses closed around him and the high-density housing and large competitors cropped up, replacing him in the Quarry and Dinkytown.

After Home Depot and Target moved into the area, Clough stopped selling bigger machinery and cleaning supplies and focused on his window, screen and lock repair services. He said that the college students in the area had kept him consistently in business.

“It’s a dying art. … Not too many years ago, there were seven other hardware stores around southeast and northeast [Minneapolis],” Clough said. “So they’re all gone. I’m the only little guy left, and that’s mostly because of the windows and locks.”

Since Clough has such deep roots in Southeast Como, he has a long list of local connections. Many residents call him for references for local plumbers, electricians or general maintenance people because they trust his opinion.

Betsy Snyder, executive director of Southeast Seniors, said she often gave Clough’s number to her elderly clients doing home improvement projects. Many of them appreciated Clough’s conversation and the proximity of the store to their houses, Snyder said.

“It’s kind of the old-fashioned way life used to be,” longtime customer Diane Pederson said. “I mean, I could walk down to the store and get what I need. I wouldn’t have to drive there.”

After Clough announced the imminent closure, landlords, customers and community members have been streaming in to stock up on hardware supplies and give gifts, food and gas cards.

“Some people [have come in] that hardly come in, but I’ve just been here forever, and these people have been here forever,” Clough said.

As Clough sells out his remaining stock, customers have also been asking for memorabilia hanging up in the store.

“One guy wants that pop machine,” Clough said, pointing at an old Coke machine. “I’m giving it to him, but he insists that I autograph it.”