First Posted: 8/8/2013
Editor’s note: With all the new businesses jockying for position on Main Street in Pittston, we decided to turn our sites to the mainstays, the businesses that have weathered the storm for decades and remain an integral part of the thriving downtown. This is the second in an occasional series of stories profiling those businesses.
They just don’t make them like they used to.
But for the past 41 years at Pittston’s Quality Hardware and Roofing, they’ve been doing just that.
The business’s owner and shopkeeper, 93-year-old Helen Brigido doesn’t know any other way. Operating from the same Main Street store her late husband, Guy, opened in 1972, Brigido probably isn’t your typical hardware guru — yet it’s a job she’s held down for the past 17 years.
“I’m here at a quarter-to-nine every morning, right after church,” Brigido said.
Specializing in roofing, gutters and general masonry work, the Mom and Pop style shop has been a part of Main Street since the early 1970s.
Brigido’s husband, Guy, was the original owner of the business until he passed away in 1996, leaving his wife to carry on the company’s name.
“Well, I knew how to sell, but I sold shoes,” she joked. “He was the hardware person.”
In 1972, shortly after Hurricane Agnes left its legendary mark on the Wyoming Valley, Guy Brigido was called to a repair at the shop’s current location at 76 Main St., then a restaurant. The restaurant had been completely destroyed by fire and its owner, rather than repairing and reopening, sold the location to Brigido.
“All Guy wanted was an office,” she said. “But while we were painting the place, we had a lot of traffic. We had a ton of people walking in and out.”
Initially, the flood helped the business get off the ground.
“Due to the flood, when we opened the store, we were getting people from Wilkes-Barre and they were buying everything in the store because they had no other place to go,” she said.
“He ended up getting all the supplies and bringing them to the store.”
Though the foot traffic of that era has fallen off a bit in recent years, Brigido said the city itself is improving by leaps and bounds.
“The town is beautiful and people love it. It never looked as nice as it does now,” she said.
Brigido recalled the days when dress factory workers would crowd the couple’s shop after the work day ended.
“After work let out at 3:30, you couldn’t find a spot to stand in the store,” she said. “And we had everything. There wasn’t a thing that a customer asked for that we didn’t have … and if we didn’t have it, we made sure to get it.”
Since then, a flurry of large chain stores has burst into the area and taken away some of the store’s business. But, she said, it’s been that old-fashioned care that’s kept three generations of customers coming through her doors.
“I do have customers that come back to me that say that ‘Lowe’s and Home Depot, they don’t know what I’m talking about,’” she said. “There’s nothing like having a person facing you and getting that personal touch.”
Despite the decrease in walk-ins and an increase in local chain stores, Brigido said her small store still manages to book a large deal of work.
In fact, the business is tied up and booked solid for the next several months with upcoming jobs in Avoca, Pittston and West Wyoming, just to name a few.
But Brigido says her business is only as good as the help she gets from her employees.
“We have a real, real good crew. I’m very proud of them,” she said. “I’ve got the best masonry men, the best carpenters and we make sure the customers are taken care of.”
Not one for modern day advertising, Brigido said her customers mainly reach her by word of mouth and the testimony of parents and grandparents.
One set of customers, Avoca residents Thomas and Carol Anne Sommer, heard about the business through a mutual friend who was referred by another friend.
“We knew what we were getting before we walked in,” Thomas Sommer said. “You don’t always get that with other places.”
“They worked with us and made us feel like we were their top priority and that was great,” he added.
After 41 years, Brigido’s passion for her job — and customers — hasn’t wavered.
“I love coming to work every day,” she said. “I love it and I love my customers.”