It's been 13 years since Dave Candey packed up his family and the wares of a family-owned suburban Washington hardware store and relocated to Bel Air.
With him came two full-time employees and a slice ofbusiness Americana -- a down-home neighborhood hardware store that had been in the Candey family for four generations.
Last week, customers and friends helped celebrate Candey Hardware's centennial anniversary with balloons, refreshments and the giveaway of 400 "birthday presents," including such items as electric drillsand bubble gum machines.
"It's a reverse birthday party," Candey said. "We're giving the presents away to our customers. Many of the items were donated by our suppliers and distributors. They've been real good to us."
His daughter, Susanne Candey Bittle, said, "It's not every day a family business marks 100 years."
Indeed, customers who mosey into the 5,000-square-foot store in the Rock Spring Shopping Center today will see a vastly different Candey Hardware than that which opened 100 years ago in Washington.
In 1891, Candey's great-grandfather immigrated to the United States and built his own hardware store in the nation's capital. A hardware dealer by trade, Josiah Candey eventually expanded his wares to include painting and plumbing supplies in a 15-foot-wide store nestled among a community of row houses.
During those times tradesmen lined up at the store at 7 a.m. to buy the supplies they needed for the day's work.
But the customers were not just painters and plumbers and the like. The store's location near the White House made it accessible to the nation's dignitaries: A dollar bill spent at the store by Theodore Roosevelt in 1918 has been handed down through the generations of store owners.
FromJosiah Candey the business was passed on to a great-uncle, then to Candey's father, George Candey, who passed it on to Candey and his sister, Gwen Loftin. She owns and runs the Washington store; Candey and his immediate family run the Bel Air store.
Prior to opening the Bel Air store, Candey owned the family's Hillcrest Heights store. The family closed that Maryland suburb's store when they moved to Bel Air.
"We more or less fell in love with Bel Air when we came up here in March 1978," Candey recalled. "It was a snowy day and as we drove up through this town, we found an empty store. We never dreamed it would work out."
While product lines have changed, such as brushes, paint supplies and some tools that are now disposable, Candey Hardware has remained true to its origins -- a neighborhood store.
It carries a full line of plumbing, painting and garden supplies, and the Candeys repair storm windows and screens, sharpen tools and cut sheet iron, glass, chain and rope.
Like his ancestors, Candey sells washers, nails and screws by the pound.
"We're really homeowner-oriented," he said. "Our true goal is to have all things needed to completea job from A to Z."
Business, he said, has been good, though, thestore has suffered some from the recession. "People are buying less-expensive items," Candey said. "Instead of buying a top-line mower, they're buying middle of the road. People are more money-conscious, but basically business has been good."
The store employs three full-time and six part-time employees. Included on the roster is daughter Susanne Bittle, who manages the store. She's next in line for ownership.
While she is the youngest of Candey's five children, the Towson State University business graduate is the only one who has shown interest in managing the store.
"I've always enjoyed working in the store and working with people," the 28-year-old said. "A lot of people have seen me grow up in that store, and a lot of customers have become our friends."
Although her 55-year-old father has no immediateplans for retirement, he is confident about passing the store to thefifth generation.
"She's been really good for the store," he says. "We're happy she's interested, and we have really appreciated her help."
Added Bittle, "We hope to keep the store going for at least another 50 years."