I had the most amazing experience yesterday at a hardware store. I know how that sounds, but I’m not joking.
It all started a few weeks ago when I got my new Oregon license plates. I decided I really wanted to do something fun with my old plates. I have always thought license plates were pretty cool – I’ve kept my old ones whenever I’ve had to update and I even bought an awesome French plate when I was studying abroad. (I found a store in Cannes that would print them for you!)
So I decided to hang my license plate collection on my wall and attach hooks to some of them. I needed to buy some hooks, so I went online looking for the closest hardware store. I came across Hippo Hardware, which is locally owned, so I decided to check it out.
This place was unlike any hardware store I’d ever been in. First of all, the building covers approximately 30,000 square feet and is divided into 3 floors and one large entry room. The entry room is chock-full of every kind of hardware piece you can imagine, from hooks and pulls to doorknobs and mail slots. The various items are stocked in drawers (some labeled, some just waiting to surprise you), cabinets, shelves, and wall mounts. Just walking in the door is a completely overwhelming experience. They have new, used, broken, rusted, and handmade styles of… everything.
The other three floors are divided into plumbing, lighting, and architecture. However, these labels only loosely describe what you can find there. For instance, the plumbing floor may include bathtubs, sinks, and toilets, but it also features incredible antique fixtures for bidets, for instance, and an old school drinking fountain. The lighting floor was pretty amazing, but I definitely spent most of my time in the basement looking at doors, windows, ladders, and awesome decorative heating grates. The entire establishment sort of makes you feel like everyone’s grandparents emptied the contents of their attics (and various pieces of their houses) into the same building and then hundreds of people spent years organizing all of it. I mean, they even had a lime green toilet. And if my grandma didn’t own that, it’s only because she didn’t know it existed.
I walked around the place with my mouth agape for almost an hour, until they pretty much kicked me out (20 minutes after closing time) and it never even occurred to me to take photos. There are already lots on flickr, but I’m planning another trip back there next weekend to take a few of my own.
I do want to note, however, that the staff was incredibly friendly and quite funny. They not only let me roam around long after closing time, but they were very helpful and continued to joke with each other all afternoon over their paging system. I’ve never seen a group of people have so much fun working together and providing customer service. They seemed downright excited to hear about every customer’s project and the crazy things we had all dreamed up before coming into the store.
It’s hard to believe I left with only the hooks that I needed and not a ladder or window pane for my next craft project (although I’m already planning what I’m going to do with those items). Unfortunately, I was rather limited in my selection of hooks due to the placement of the holes in my license plates, but I’m very happy with the final product.
Hippo Hardware, thank you for helping me honor my Montana roots while supporting a local Portland (AWESOME) business.