For over 50 years, Fischer's Hardware in Springfield has been known to residents as the store that carries everything for home repair — except the kitchen sink.
"The store has grown, of course, but we try to keep it basically the same," said Wanda Fischer, whose husband, Jim, opened the store as Springfield Paint and Hardware in the early 1950s.
With several employees that have spent more than 20 years at the store and a variety of items ranging from plastic tubing and drywall screws to patio furniture and greeting cards, Fischer said the store is reminiscent of "old fashioned hardware stores" people used to find in every town.
"There's not enough room to stock everything, but we like to think if we don't have it, you don't need it," joked Jim Bowe, an employee at Fischer's for over 40 years.
While going to a larger chain store may be more attractive for construction companies or people with bigger projects, Bowe said many customers can't find the parts they need for older homes anywhere other than Fischer's.
"We keep things on hand like the types of furnace filters they need in the older homes in Springfield," he said. However, if the store doesn't stock a particular part, "we'll look into carrying it if enough people ask for it."
Many of the over 50 employees at the store have worked there for more than 20 years, Fischer said, which allows for a kind of expertise that doesn't happen overnight.
"Time and time again, people say they come here to get the personal attention they need to solve a problem and return home quickly to get back to work," she said.
People like Bowe have the expertise in both what the store carries and how to make repairs that "I don't think there's ever been anything we haven't been able to figure out," he said.
GARDEN DEPARTMENT manager Paul Quinter said the store is one of the few places where gardeners can buy seed by the pound.
In his part of the store, customers are greeted by plush birds that chirp when people walk by. From December through spring, children often stop their parents in front of a train display, which Quinter, a train enthusiast, sets up every year.
While the store may have "pretty much what everyone else has," he thinks customer come back because they "like the personal service. I know my customers. If they have a problem, we'll go up and down every aisle until we can solve it," he said.
Walking by a display of bright-red Radio Flyer wagons, Quinter said "we're one of the few people to keep these in stock," a smile widening across his face.
Despite overseeing a collection of mechanized music boxes, with themes ranging from a Nutcracker Suite box complete with scene changes and dancers to a circus tent that displays a trapeze artist and tight-rope walker, housewares manager Sharon Sucher said her favorite part of the store is the kitchen gadget aisle.
"There's always something new and unusual here," she said, pointing to a credit card sized plastic tool called a Garlic Card, which has raised 'g's and 'c's that are used to shred garlic.
After teaching school in Fairfax County for 20 years, Sucher started working at Fischer's two years ago and has enjoyed working with the customers.
"Customers like to come here because there's always someone around to help," she said.
Dennis Dean, a newcomer to Springfield, agreed. A native of Wisconsin, Dean said the store reminds him of the hardware stores he used to visit in the Midwest.
"This is a great place," he said. "The guys who work here are tool people, they know how things work and what part you need."
AS A PARTNER in the Heritage Remodeling company, Dean said he heard about the store from his landlady.
"They have things here the bigger stores just don't carry," he said. "Plus, you get a personal touch. Everyone seems to take the time with the customers."
Mary Jane Williams said her husband has no qualms sending her to the store because he knows she'll find what they need.
"I can come in with a problem and they'll know what I need and will most likely have it," she said. "If they don't have it, they'll tell me exactly where to go to find it."
With two different types of wood sealant in her hand, Williams said she was trying to decide the best way to finish a project that was made easier, thanks to a little advice from an employee.
"I thought this one project I had was going to be huge, but they showed me a different way to do it that's just so much easier," she said. "The people who work here give you that extra vote of confidence."
Going to a bigger chain store would result in wasted time and confusion for Norman Gelfand, a customer at Fischer's for 25 years.
"If I go into a big box store, I'll just wander around trying to find what I need. Most likely, I'll end up buying two parts that I don't need," he said. "If I come here, I can find someone who can give me advice and show me exactly what I need."
The other hardware stores that used to serve Springfield residents have all gone out of business or moved out of town, he said. "When I got here, I could go in any direction and come across a hardware store. They're all gone now except this place."
Wanda Fischer said that's a sentiment shared by her husband, their employees and many of their customers.
"We've been told it would be a loss to the community if we closed," she said. "That's the best compliment any business could ever get."