Outgoing hardware store owner reflects on decades in business
WESTPORT — Bob Kelly of Torno Hardware Store was prepared to work until his last days, but after almost 73 years in business the hardware store will soon close.
Times have changed, Kelly said Friday, especially after his family struggled during the financial crisis.
“What’s happening in our industry is the big guys always have an advantage over small guys like us,” Kelly said, referring to conglomerated hardware stores.
The store, at 800 Post Road E., has been around since its original owner, Bill Torno, opened shop in 1946. After owning the store for 46 of those years, Kelly said his family is interested in moving forward, now being as good a time as any to say goodbye.
As a former economics professor at Fairfield University, Kelly said he takes pleasure in helping people solve problems.
“I guess in some ways when you work in a hardware store, you’re a teacher as well,” he said.
The hardware store and the lumberyard a few doors down will be taken over by Westport resident Shelly Kahn with Greenwich-based Interstate Lumber.
Kahn will be closing the hardware store and turning it into a showroom, according to Sajjad Gul, the hardware store manager. Gul said the store’s closing is unfortunate, but he will be staying under the new ownership.
Gul began working for the store after moving from Pakistan to the United States in 1999, and met Kelly while attending the University of Bridgeport.
They have been given 120 days to close and, despite reducing inventory since January, it will take some time, Gul said.
As for what’s next, Kelly said he is looking forward to tackling his personal library and suspects his wife has projects lined up for him.
He described his wife as small but destructive, breaking things often, which will continue to keep him busy.
“I’m not sorry at all that I did what I did. When I bought that place, people thought I was crazy,” he said, laughing. “I’m quite happy the way things turned out. It’s been a good time.”