All in the family

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Borough hardware store passing on to next generation

Ed Taranovich, left, owner of Ed’s Do it Best Hardware in Naugatuck, shows his daughter and son-in-law, Tracey and Bob Dillistin, around the store June 13 Taranovich, who has owned the store for 37 years, is selling it to the Dillistins in July. LUKE MARSHALL
Ed Taranovich, left, owner of Ed’s Do it Best Hardware in Naugatuck, shows his daughter and son-in-law, Tracey and Bob Dillistin, around the store June 13 Taranovich, who has owned the store for 37 years, is selling it to the Dillistins in July. LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The last local hardware store standing in Naugatuck will be changing hands this summer, but not much else.

Ed Taranovich warmly greets any customer who wanders into his store, Ed’s Do it Best Hardware on Rubber Avenue, with a “Hello, young lady,” or “Hello, young man.”

It’s a warm greeting the store’s staff, which includes of members of Taranovich’s family and employees who have worked in the store for more than two decades, have adopted.

The store is about to undergo a change, however. Taranovich, 75, who has owned for 37 years, is retiring and will sell the store in July.

“I’ve got good reasons to retire,” said Taranovich, a Southbury resident. “Maybe I’m 75 years old. Maybe I want to spend time with my wife.”

The apple won’t fall far from the tree though.

Tracey Dillistin, Taranovich’s daughter, and her husband Bob Dillistin are buying the store and keeping the business in the family.

Both Tracey and Bob Dillistin, who live in Middlebury, currently work as mail carriers for the Southbury Post Office.

“Dad wanted to retire and it was the right time for us to think about doing something else other than the post office,” said Tracey Dillistin, who has worked at the Post Office for 13 years.

Ed’s Hardware has become a fixture in the borough and has a long history that started when there were four hardware stores in Naugatuck.

“The store has a good history. When I started there were four hardware stores in town and I’m numero uno now. I’m the only hardware store around. In Naugatuck, that is it,” Taranovich said.

Although Taranovich has spent nearly half of his life running the hardware store it was not how he began his career.

“I was in the inventory business. I was running an inventory company. And I pretty much burned myself out. So I left the inventory business and I said to my wife, ‘Let’s have some fun and open a hardware store.’ And she still reminds me, ‘Are we having fun yet,’” Taranovich said.

Taranovich said when he purchased the store it wasn’t even a full-fledged hardware store yet.

“When I bought it, it was just turning into a hardware store. It was a paneling store actually, in Mount View Plaza,” Taranovich said.

Even though he was in a good location in Mount View Plaza the competition was stiff with three other hardware stores in town.

“It was not a hit right off the bat. In fact it was a struggle. My wife would be in the store running the register and I would be out painting and wallpapering,” Taranovich said.

Taranovich credited his success on not being reliant on any large company for business.

“What really buried the others was industry. There was Gans Hardware, which was primarily Uniroyal. That was their main company. Then you had Ray’s Hardware, which was Risdon Company. Once those manufactures left those businesses went right down,” Taranovich said.

Since the other stores have closed, Taranovich has seen Ed’s Hardware grow in popularity and customers.

“Because of everybody closing we have all of the town business. We have Middlebury business,” Taranovich said. “Westover School is one of our accounts. So we do a lot of business with outside areas because there are no hardware stores in Middlebury. We do quite a bit of business in Prospect.”

However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Taranovich, as big box stores have taken a bite out of his business.

“I did feel the hit when Walmart and Home Depot came in. We went down about one-third in our volume. So we went through struggles at various times,” Taranovich said.

Taranovich moved out of Mount View Plaza and into his current location at 560 Rubber Ave. about seven years ago.

While the move gave Taranovich nearly 3,000 more square feet of space, it did have the drawback of less foot traffic than the plaza.

“You don’t have [the walk-in customers] here. They have to want to come to this location because it’s not where they would be shopping. So everybody that comes here has a reason to come here,” Taranovich said.

When making the move to the new location, Taranovich bought not only the building but also the 3.5 acres the building sits on allowing for outdoor displays of mulch and other items.

After ensuring the new location would work for the store, Taranovich began looking for a buyer. He had it on the market for nearly two years, but could not get the price he was hoping.

That’s when Tracey and Bob Dillistin stepped forward.

“The postal service is hurting right now. … There isn’t much of a future in the postal service anymore. Mail volume has gone down. And it was a good opportunity for us,” said Bob Dillistin, who has worked at the Post Office for approximately 30 years.

The couple works in the store on their days off from the Post Office to make sure they are familiar with the business and its layout.

Bob Dillistin developed an interest and skill in craftsmanship from watching his father work on all sorts of projects. Owning and running the hardware store just seemed like a logical step, he said.

“I guess I just have the knowledge for that. It just seemed to fit. I’m a hands-on kind of guy. It gives me the opportunity to do that. I’m not the kind of person to sit behind a desk. So it fits who I am,” Bob Dillistin said.

He also brings his real-world knowledge to the store.

“I bought a 1915 house so I had to redo all the plumbing in the house and stuff like that. So I can carry that over and help customers in here. It just seems like a smooth transition for me to make,” Bob Dillistin said.

Although they will officially take over as the new owners of Ed’s Hardware on July 1, Bob Dillistin doesn’t plan to retire from the Post Office for another year. During that time, Taranovich will be working in the store to help ease the transition.

The Dillistins said they do not foresee any major changes to the store when they take over. They plan on keeping the same name, Ed’s Hardware, and staff.

“All the local people know this place so we want to leave it as close to the same as possible. But we have a few ideas of things we might want to implement,” Bob Dillistin said.

One of those new implementations would be offering small engine repairs at the store, a trade that Bob Dillistin is certified in.
With any change they make to the store, the couple said they’re focus will remain on ensuring customers are happy.

“We pride ourselves on customer service. That’s always the way Ed has been. That’s the way this place will always continue to be,” Bob Dillistin said.

“That’s why we’re still here,” Taranovich added.

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