'Roundy' Hardware Store Finds Itself Square In Suburbia's Path

September 29, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Staff writer

Hugh and Sandy Kendall's family hardware store, housed in a Quonset hut since 1947, was fine when Clarksville was a small town. But now suburbia beckons.

River Hill, a new Columbia village, will be developed just east of Route 108 -- and just across from the Kendalls' store. So the couple wants to raze the hut and surrounding houses and build a modern commercial center.

Along with Sandy's 81-year-old father, Frank M. Koby, who still operates an auto parts store down the road, the Kendalls and their friends and former neighbors Aletha and Robert Foster are seeking commercial rezoning for most of a 13-acre parcel they jointly own.

At this point, the Kendalls are uncertain what form their proposed commercial center will take, but they believe they have little choice but toundertake a modern shopping area or lose out to suburbia. Somewhat reluctantly, they say they have little choice if they are to compete with the stores that have popped up along the Route 108 strip near theRoute 32 intersection in Clarksville and the village shopping centerplanned for across the road. The case will be heard by the county's Zoning Board; no date for the hearing has been set. One advantage theKendalls have is the strip commercial development already encamped along their side of Route 108.

"There is nothing left," Sandy Kendall said outside the hardware store next to the wheelbarrows, weed cutters and bluebird bird houses that Hugh makes and sells for $13. "We have become a commercial area."

She ticks off the former neighborswho have been replaced by antique shops, used-car offices, a bank, pizza restaurant under construction and even a competing hardware store going up nearby.

Even the Kendalls, who lived next to the hardware store for 24 years, moved two years ago to build a house 2 1/2 miles away in a subdivision. One side of their former home is used for storage; the other houses their 25-year-old daughter Emily's insuranceagency.

"We looked at what we could do with the present zoning, and there is nothing constructive that can come of it," Sandy Kendall said. If the zoning board were to turn them down, then "we would operate until it (the hut) falls over," said Sandy Kendall.

John W. Taylor, president of Howard Countians for Responsible Growth, said he wanted to review the Kendalls' proposal before passing judgment.

"We are not automatically opposed to commercial zoning in the area because it would not necessarily be inconsistent with surrounding land uses," said Taylor, whose organization is concerned about growth and development in Howard County.

The Kendalls' plan could provide competition to the River Hill village center, with its retail stores and offices that will serve the village's 7,500 residents.

Constructionof the River Hill village is expected to start in 1993 and continue through the year 2000, said Al Scavo, a Rouse Co. vice president. "Wewould like to try and figure out a way the village center will complement what is there in Clarksville and be part of its downtown," saidScavo.

Most of the 13 acres, except for a small commercially zoned area fronting on Route 108, is zoned for rural residential development. That includes their store, which has operated as a non-conforming use since the late 1940s.

Hugh Kendall's father, Charles N. Kendall, founded the business. Since his death in 1968, the Kendalls haverun the store, a Clarksville landmark known to neighborhood childrenas the "roundy store" and the "tin can store."

In asking for rezoning, the Kendalls cite a "substantial change" in their neighborhood,which has become a commercial strip, and they are maintaining that county zoning authorities made a mistake in placing a rural-residential classification on most of the land.

The Kendalls say the existing buildings are "not suitable for residential use," adding that a newcommercial development there would "become a hub of the new village of Clarksville."

Hugh Kendall, who grew up in rural Clarksville with Sandy as a neighbor and worked in the Quonset hut hardware store since he was 8, said he was "bound to miss it when you grow up with itfor such a long time, but it had to happen -- change is coming to Clarksville and we would like to keep up with the times a little bit."

The Quonset hut was supposed to have a 20-year "life" and is starting to show the effects of time after 44 years, the Kendalls said.

"The Quonset hut is dying, rusting away, and we are going to have todeal with it," said Sandy Kendall.

Their son, 23-year-old Steven,a 1990 graduate from Mount St. Mary's College, is helping run the hardware store, and he would like the family hardware business to continue when a new commercial complex is built.

"It could be very goodbecause we will have a lot of people living across the street, a lotof business prospects," said Steven Kendall. "I am looking for that to get started, though it is kind of hard to say whether I like it ornot. It is going to be strange to see this community change the nextfive years and become something like a downtown Olney (a residentialand commercial community in Montgomery County)."

But in recent years the clientele for Kendall's hardware store has changed from farmers to mostly homeowners and contractors, Mrs. Kendall said.

"We hope to still be here," she said. "And, we still will want to know about our customers, like where they live, what job they do and how many kids they have. I expect we will still take the time to listen to their problems, when they want to share them."

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