By Peter Becker
HAWLEY- One of the oldest businesses in Hawley and the region is Church Street Hardware, started by the Guinn family in 1857.
Fondly remembered by anyone who visited the store before 1980 for the menagerie of mounted hunting trophy heads, the long-time store also played a significant role in the building of the Wallenpaupack Dam.
Owned by Robert and Heidi LaBaff since 2005, the business at 702 Church Street has been at this location at least since the 1890’s.
The location of the business was not evident examining the 1872 Hawley street map. The German Hotel was located at approximately this site at the time. Bishop Avenue did not yet exist.
The Guinn brothers had an ad in the centennial Hawley history book in 1927, stating that their family hardware business began in 1857.
In 156 years, the hardware business has been owned by seven families.
Will Mount thought that a man named Siedler had a store here first, possibly a grocery store.
The hardware store was started by William H. Guinn, an Irish immigrant. Information on him is lacking, except that his wife’s name was Mary, also born in Ireland, in 1824. As of the 1880 census, she was widowed, and was keeping house, with three children, Lizzie (born 1855), Robert (1857) and William H. (1860).
The two brothers carried on the business. William H. Guinn, the younger, had married Carrie Purdy, a Hawley native, eight years younger. Her father Kelsey Purdy, from Hemlock Hollow (Lakeville) was running a hardware store in Carbondale.
They had four children, Margery R. (1891), Frances L. (1892), Robert (1895) and Chauncey, born in 1898.
Hawley business directories show brothers William and Robert running the store in 1925 and 1927; the 1935 book only lists Robert. Whether Robert was married, has not been found.
We do know that at some point, Robert’s nephew Chauncey took over the business
He and his wife Gertrude resided at 840 Church Street; his father William lived there as well. Chauncey and Gertrude had a daughter Carolyn L., born in 1930.
After Chauncey died in the early 1960’s, his widow ran the store for a short time, with Chauncey’s sister Margery. She lived on Academy Street.
The Guinn ownership ended in 1964 when John Tintle bought the store; he kept the name Guinn Bros., with a separate sign, "Tintle’s Hardware." At some point it became Tintle’s Church Street Hardware." He sold it in about 1973, to Russ Connington. After a short while, it was sold to Arthur Rubert. Then in 1980, Will Mount purchased Church Street Hardware and operated it for 25 years. He
finally sold it in 2005 to the LaBaffs.
Through the years
Pictures through the decades show familiar stock catering to hardware needs for the home owner and farmer. Outdoor sports and house ware were sold by different owners. There were horse-drawn plows, hunting rifles, fishing poles, oil lamps, appliances, bicycles, paints and tools. You name it. Guinn Bros. Even had a catalog for orders.
The building went through several alterations. Early photos show a wood frame store attached to a rooming house on the left, on Church Street. In about the 1880s there was a porch roof and bay store windows. A picture from the 1920’s show that the store expanded into the former rooming house.
Chauncey Guinn changed the look with ceramic blocks covering the exterior, around 1945-1946, said Will Mount.
Tom Sheridan recalled that when the Borough Hall burned down in 1952, destroying Hawley Fire Station #1, Chauncey let the fire company park a fire truck in his garage next to the store on Bishop Avenue.
Chauncey was a fireman as well.
Later on, there was a Hawley ambulance parked there, said John Tintle, whose father owned the store after Guinn. The garage was later incorporated into the store.
Guinn also sold Hotpoint appliances, upstairs, where there were also cooking classes.
They were also a dealer for Lehigh Cement. When PP&L built the Wallenpaupack dam in 1926-1926 and created the lake, Guinn Bros. supplied the cement for the concrete. The dam required about 42,000 tons of concrete.
The famed collection of 20-25 mounted animal heads were put up by Chauncey Guinn. Thomas E. Sheridan said that the trophy heads came from Chauncey’s friend, John Caputo. There was a mounted bear, standing up, that had been shot in Alaska. It was so big a hole had to be cut in the wall to get it in the building, Sheridan said.
There was a big variety of North American game animals, Will Mount recalled. There was a huge moose head, a fox, deer, black bear, elk, caribou, mountain goat- to name a few off the top of the head.
Mount said when he bought the store in 1980, he had to change the heating system and needed to drop the ceiling. This necessitated removing the trophies. They were sold to a hunting club in Greeley.
Tintle’s Church Street Hardware
John Tintle of Hawley recalled when his parents bought the store from the Guinn family. It was 1964. John was 18 at the time and in college.
His parents, John and Bertha, bought the store from Mrs, Guinn and settled in upstairs, where they made an apartment.
The elder John Tintle sold hardware and housewares, but no appliances in the store. For a while he was a swimming pool dealer and put one in the back. The mounted trophies in the store continued to be a big attraction. They sold fishing and hunting licenses as well.
People came in and traded S&H Green Stamps. They would pay their electric bill. John said his parents were a great team, mixing paint and cutting glass.
They’d get a lot of lake and camp customers in the summer. John recalled that they’d never be open on Sunday; that was the thing to do then- it was the Lord’s Day. Still, in an emergency, customers could count on them, any hour of the day and night and even on Sunday. If they had something break down and had to buy a part, they knew where the Tintles lived.
There were other local hardware stores as well, but no "big-box" chain stores competing with the "mom and pop" businesses.
In those days, it was friendly competition; if Tintle didn’t have what the customer, he would suggest trying another local hardware store across town; they in turn might send people to Tintle's.
Watts Hardware was at 126 Main Avenue at the corner with River Street. Ed Drake took over this store in the mid-1960's and it became Drake's Hardware. Will Mount recalled that Bill James sold appliances on Keystone Street, and Lake Region True Value hardware was up on Rt. 6 near the lake.
Will and Ann Mount were also partners in the business after buying it in 1980. They lived in the apartment upstairs in the winter and down at Lake Wallenpaupack in the summer.
Mount reflected on his 25 years, how running a small business had its ups and downs. At the height he had about five employees.
The sign on the roof facing the hill in back and Route 6 proved his best advertisement, he recalled. Still, his small ads in The News Eagle with his sketched picture and a witty saying were a popular feature.
During the years Will Mount had the store, Wal-Mart opened, and proved to be a big competitor for large items. Home Depot was getting ready to open when Mount retired.
He said he had many tried and true customers and he enjoyed Hawley. Retailing, he said, was not something he expected to do, "but it kept food on the table."
Bob LaBaff said he is from Florida; his wife’s family has local roots. They were doing some work up here and stayed at Woodloch when he went to Hawley looking to buy a tool. He and his father-in-law stopped at Church Street Hardware; his father-in-law and Will Mount were talking, and Mount mentioned he’d like to sell the place.
LaBaff later made an offer and in eight months, in 2005, they bought the store. They make their home upstairs. Eight years later, the small town retail legacy of the Guinn Brothers continues.