Sure, you can get a snow shovel, light bulb or roach motel on the internet.
But you can’t get it immediately — right now, the moment you need it.
You can’t handle the merchandise, to choose exactly the right product.
You can’t get the expert advice — and no up-selling — from knowledgeable, friendly folks you find at your local hardware store.
That’s why so many Westporters flock to Crossroads Ace Hardware.
Ace is the place for all that — plus the old-fashioned, all-that’s-missing-is-the-pot-bellied-stove atmosphere, courtesy of owner Jimmy Izzo and his dad, AJ.
For nearly 30 years, Joe Italiano has made Crossroads Hardware special too. But January 28 is his last day in the small-but-crammed-to-the-gills store that’s as beloved as its strip mall neighbor, Coffee An’.
Crossroads is Joe’s last stop, in a long career in the business. The Westchester native worked in Ridgefield and Danbury before Paul Taylor — owner of Weston Hardware, where he worked in the 1960s — told AJ to call Joe for his new store, on the site of the old North Main Garage.
Crossroads Ace Hardware opened in October 1989. Joe’s been there all that time.
In fact, very quietly — but with insights gained from decades of experience — he’s helped make it what it is.
Joe prefers to talk about what he’s gotten out of the place.
“Over the years I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with a lot of nice people,” he says. “The customers are great, and AJ and Jimmy treated me better than well.”
He’s done everything from make keys — you can’t do that on the internet — to repair a completely shattered antique glass lamp.
Customer service is important to the Izzos — and to Joe. “We try our best to give them what they ask for,” he says. “We won’t do a job if we can’t do it right, and reasonably.”
Some customers, of course, think that “reasonably” means “almost free.”
“It costs us to keep merchandise on the shelves,” Joe notes. “On the internet, they have a big warehouse and they shove it in boxes, then out the door.”
But if customers keep going to the internet, he adds, “we won’t be here to serve the public.”
Retirement will give Joe time to catch up on projects he’s got at home; spend time with his wife, who retired 2 years ago, and travel. He looks forward to attending his grandkids’ functions on Saturdays — something he’s never been able to do.
He’ll miss the “interaction with all the people.” He will not miss driving between work and home — Danbury, on the New Fairfield line – in snow.
Meanwhile, thousands of loyal customers will miss Joe Italiano. Ace will still be the place.
It just won’t be the same without him.