CRANESVILLE — It was the worst three-day span imaginable for the Kennedy family. Charles “Buddy” Kennedy, the fourth generation owner of Kennedy’s Hardware in Cranesville, died on a Wednesday at the age of 95. Three days later, his son, 68-year-old Bill, the fifth generation owner of the store, died, too.
The family closed the store immediately to re-assess. Bill’s widow and now current owner, Janice, and her two sons, Brandon and Ryan, sat at a table and discussed their options. Both sons were working for other companies at the time, so she thought, maybe…
“There’s no way, shape or form we’re going to let this place close,” Ryan told her.
“I could never handle driving past our store one day and not seeing our name on it,” Brandon added.
Kennedy’s was established in 1881 by Ernestus Kennedy. He traded his house at the top of the hill in town for what was known as Dan Robert’s store, which had been in existence since 1862. Ernestus’ picture hangs in the entryway, along with the five generations of family owners that have followed.
“You could find anything you possibly needed to serve the community [back then],” Janice says. She said the store sold candy, linoleum, furniture, clothing, a cheese shop, shoes, etc. “People still come in and say, ‘I remember I got my first pair of boots here. I got my first pair of shoes here.'”
As Cranesville expanded and more stores opened in town, Kennedy’s went from an all-purpose general store to a hardware store. They expanded beyond their original wall, which still stands, to add almost twice as much square footage. But, in the last couple years, Buddy and Bill were planning to remodel. Unfortunately, they never got to see it come to life.
“[We made] outside changes that everybody sees when they drive by. The painting and lighting — that stuff was all in the works,” Ryan said. “The biggest change we made was switching vendors and adding inventory.”
According to Brandon, what the store offered was high quality. They just needed to expand to more items.
“People needed to be able to get 100 percent of what they needed, instead of getting part of it here and part of it somewhere else.” Brandon said.
Janice says the expansion has been “overwhelming.” Kennedy’s doubled their plumbing options and quadrupled their electrical department; installed a paint-matching computer and paint mixer; and added cleaning products and lumber, among other additions. Soon, they will start renting power tools, too.
“Other than that, there’s not too much that we don’t have in the building or can’t get within a couple days,” Ryan said.
Brandon said, since opening last Sunday, March 21st, they have done a lot of business. Part of it is because of all the new merchandise. Another part of it is because the town missed the store so much.
The most special addition is an homage to the family. For decades, the Kennedy men collected model cars, old tools, license plates and more. They now hang in the center of the store by the original staircase, underneath the fully-operational model train, next to the hanging antique frying pans.
Scanning the new-look Kennedy’s, Janice takes a moment.
“I said to the boys the other day, ‘If your dad would’ve remodeled, this [setup] is what the store would be,'” she says, welling up. “This would’ve been Bill’s store. I can see both Buddy and Bill up there, being real pleased with the kids.”