Mark Stockwell/The Sun Chronicle
Last Saturday, the town of Norfolk, Massachusetts was without a hardware store for the first time in 45 years.
Ed Hamwey, the owner of Main Street Hardware and Supply, had finally decided to retire. His long, successful career had left an immeasurable impact on the town, to the point where his store had become a strong part of its identity. Some may know him as a kind and wise business owner; others as a great friend, brother, husband, or father. But to me, he is my grandfather, or EJ as we call him.
To myself, and others in my family, the store was always something really cool and inspiring to be around. As a kid, and later when I was able to work there and help out during the summer, I always thought it was so cool that my grandfather was able to start his own business and have a strong connection to the community. I imagined that the store was his life dream and something that he had always wanted to do. Interestingly enough, however, this was far from the truth.
Coming out of high school, Hamwey was sold on being an engineer. He went to Northeastern University to get his degree, but quickly realized the field was not for him. It was then that he recalled taking an aptitude test back in high school, the result of which told him to go into business. With nothing to lose, he went to pursue a business degree at Babson. After landing numerous jobs in the years following, he decided to settle and start a small town business. 45 years later, the rest is history.
For someone like myself, who currently has no idea what career lies ahead of me in the next several years, my grandfather’s ability to continue finding his passions after several dead-ends has inspired me. While maybe an aptitude test may not lay it all out for me as it did for him (despite his insistence), it’s good to know that somewhere down the line, you’ll find the right path for you.
The thing that most inspires me, however, is how the town of Norfolk and the surrounding area have embraced him and his store to the level that they have. I’ve known for a little while now that the store would inevitably close (even if I did have interest in continuing the business, I’m just too far away in age for it to be passed down). I never would have imagined, however, that the media would have taken such a liking to the work my grandfather has done over the years. Mainly, being featured during the four o’clock segment of NBC 10 Boston’s newscast. That level of recognition for a low-key and old-fashioned local business owner in the age of large corporations and digital marketing is just unheard of. If I can have even half the positive impact towards those around me as he has, then I’d certainly consider whatever I choose for a career as a success.
So to the town of Norfolk, Massachusetts, thank you for allowing my grandfather to live out his dream for the last 45 years. Thank you for allowing the store to have the impact and value to the community that you’ve allowed it to have.
And thank you EJ. Thank you for being a great example for us. And thank you for allowing me to be a part of your dream. We are all so proud and excited for what’s next.