Tag Archives: Joe Italiano

End Of An Era: Crossroads Hardware To Close

For 27 years, Crossroads Hardware has served Westport.

Jimmy Izzo, his dad AJ, and a superb, knowledgeable staff have helped us weather snowstorms, hurricanes and floods. They’ve been the go-to place for gardening supplies in spring, rakes in the fall, paint and keys and pest control and light bulbs and a lot more whenever we need it.

But all good — no, great — things come to an end. The North Main Street shop with the country-store vibe will close at the end of the month.

Crossroads Ace Hardware on Main Street. Its neighbors include Coffee An’, Merritt Country Store and 323 restaurant.

Jimmy is one of the most positive people I know. A native Westporter (Staples High School Class of 1983 — his dad was Staples ’58), he loves this town and the folks who live here. He will never speak negatively about them.

But they — we — have changed.

Too many of us now buy too much on the internet to keep Crossroads Hardware in business. We buy it from the comfort of our homes, and it’s delivered the next day. We’re even reminded by email or text when we’re about to run out of something, so we can order more right then and there.

We don’t head down to the hardware store as regularly as we used to — particularly on Saturdays. That used to be Crossroads’ big day. Now, families are on the go all day, with kids’ sports and other activities. Saturday at the hardware store is a thing of the past.

Crossroads Ace Hardware has always been community-minded. When former employee Todd Austin (standing, 2nd from right) served in Iraq, the store sent shirts and plenty of other goods to his Marine company.

The Izzos crammed a ton of stuff into 2,300 square feet. When they opened in 1991, there weren’t a lot of places to buy, say, fire logs.

Today those are just one of the squintillion things Amazon sells. (You can get them at Stew’s and Stop & Shop now too.)

People even order ice melt online. We know when a storm is coming. We order with a few clicks, and it’s delivered to our doorstep just hours before the snow falls.

Jimmy Izzo with Monday special assistant Annissa DiNoto.

Amazon — and the big boys like Home Depot — enjoy economies of scale. But the costs of a brick-and-mortar store — rent, insurance, salaries — never go down.

Jimmy is not bitter. He wants his closing to be a celebration of his 27 years in business. He salutes his longtime employees — Janet Horelick,  Mike Stiskel, Chris Gendren, the Coulson brothers, the many Staples students who have worked there (usually in their first jobs), and manager Joe Italiano who retired last year after a quarter century with the Izzos.

Jimmy mentions too his girlfriend Jeannine Molle and her daughter Lilly, for their great support.

For years, Crossroads Ace Hardware has hosted special needs students from Staples High School. They always followed up with personal thank-yous, Jimmy says.

For nearly 3 decades, he says, he has been privileged to see Westport through his customers’ eyes. “The talk, the politics, the civil discourse — I’ve enjoyed it all.” (And he hears it all: In his spare time, Jimmy is an RTM member from District 3.)

“This is a great town. Our customers are gems. They’re awesome, great people.”

But their needs and wants — and shopping habits — have changed.

Now Jimmy will explore other options. He’ll continue to be involved in Westport — a community he loves.

It just won’t be at the store that once served Westport, in the days when “personal touch” meant a lot more than hitting “submit” on your online order.

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Here’s his statement:

I can’t believe it’s been 27 years since we opened the doors of Crossroads Hardware. 27 years of serving this wonderful community, and making lifelong friends along the way. 27 years of watching great kids who have worked for us grow into amazing adults, with multiple success stories. Each one becomes a part of our family for life.

I can’t thank all of our employees, past and present, enough for caring so much about Crossroads and our customers, as if the store were your own. You truly contributed to making Crossroads the neighborhood gathering place we always wanted it to be.

I would like to thank our manager of 26 years, Joe Italiano, who retired last year, for his loyalty, depth of knowledge and care for our customers and their needs. And a special thank you to my father, AJ Izzo, for his dedication to Crossroads and the community as a whole.

Joe Italiano retired last year, after 26 years with Crossroads. Janet Horelick has worked there for many years too.

I can’t thank the wonderful Westport-Weston community, and those who traveled from other towns to support Crossroads over the years. You too will always be a part of our family. Without you, we would have never had the 27 years to be your local helpful hardware place.

As we close our doors at the end of May, I want everyone to know it’s been a great ride. We feel incredibly blessed to have served this community, and made forever friendships throughout our 27 years in business.

We hope to see you in the coming weeks as we celebrate 27 years of friendship.

AJ Izzo (right) with Matthew Mandell. He serves on the RTM with Jimmy Izzo, and as executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, is a strong supporter of small local businesses.

 

 

 

Joe Italiano: An Ace Retires

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’.

Joe Italiano

Joe Italiano

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.”

Crossroads Ace Hardware, where customer service -- and Joe Italiano -- are kings.

Crossroads Ace Hardware is a favorite Westport place.

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.

Ace Is The Place

During the 22 years Julie and Bob Fatherley have lived in Westport, they’ve become big fans of a nearby store.

Jim and A.J. Izzo run Crossroads Ace Hardware —  “a fantastic local business,” she says.

Crossroads Hardware, Westport CTTheir customer service is “incredible,” Julie adds. “Their great assistant, Joe Italiano, has even made house calls to some of my friends.”

Recently, Joe assembled a tool kit for the Fatherley’s young grandson, Gordon. The 2 1/2-year-old loves to hammer nails into wood with Bob.

The other day, 3 generations of Fatherley males headed over to Crossroads. The boy brought along freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

It was a typical Saturday: busy as heck. Everyone had a question, request or command of the staff.

Nonetheless, Joe took Gordon on a tour of all the wonders to be found in a hardware store.

“This is what community is all about,” Julie says.

It is indeed. A tiny gesture — but one that resonates with an entire family.

And one that helps make a young boy understand what the world — and, just as importantly, the people in one small community — are all about.