Janelle Holton Lyons is closing the doors of Bryan & Holton Hardware Sept. 30. She has been struggling to keep the store at 5600 Park Blvd. going for the last several years, but hasn’t had much success. Now the property of the 65-year-old family business has been sold.
PINELLAS PARK – On Sept. 30, Bryan & Holton hardware store, a 65-year-old family business on Park Boulevard, will close its doors for good.
Janelle Holton Lyons, the fourth generation store operator of a business started in 1947, found out earlier this summer that she had only 90 days to sell off what inventory she could and clear everything out.
“Most of my customers are really terribly upset. They can’t believe it,” she said. “I mean, we’ve been here 65 years.”
Though Lyons didn’t find out until after the fact, her father, James Bryan Holton, sold the property at 5600 Park Blvd. in June.
“I love my dad. I understand why he did it – I haven’t been able to pay rent for four years,” Lyons explained.
Nor does she blame her father, who hasn’t run the hardware business for more than 12 years, for his decision. The rent money she was to pay him was supposed to support him in his retirement. She just wishes he had given her more notice.
“Right now, I have my hands full, and I’m concerned about getting rid of and selling (inventory) and getting out of here,” she said.
Lyons began working at the family store 24 years ago. She raised her three children within its walls. She said she knows 90 percent of her clientele by name. In the past, with little more than a promise of payment, Lyons had given away needed tools and equipment to workers from the nearby Labor Force Staffing Agency, which used to be next door.
She prides herself on the service she provided, waiting on customers and helping them find exactly what they needed.
“She knows her stuff, boy, I’ll tell ya,” said James Bryan, a customer for about 25 years and of “no relation whatsoever” to the family, despite his similar name.
“I’m sorry to see them hanging it up,” he said. “You find something (here) you can’t find anywhere else, like old-fashioned hardware.”
Lyons said she would sell customers the single screw they need rather than charging them for the whole box.
“I’ve always tried to do whatever I can to work around to help people, you know, to get them to come back,” she said.
But it’s been tough.
In the past, a customer in need of two screws might buy a dozen just in case. That’s changed since the Great Recession.
“Those same people are coming in, but they’re only buying the two screws now,” Lyons said. “So I went from a $1.20-sale to a 20-cent sale. I can’t keep my doors open with 20-cent sales. I’ve got to do a lot of them.”
In the past year, Lyons hasn’t had enough money left over after paying the bills to restock her store, and on some occasions, she’s had to take money from her savings account to turn power back on.
For the past five years, she’s been living in the store’s converted office, complete with a kitchen and all her needs. The lower cost in her personal bills has helped supplement the store.
“I was just trying to survive,” she said. “In the past three years, I have lost anywhere from three to five mom-and-pop businesses that did like $50 to $100 a month with me.”
That steady income amounted to the cost of her power bill, she said.
“I’m beside myself. It’s been very, very hard,” she said, her voice breaking.
After the sale of the property was complete, the new owner came to her and asked if she would be willing to stay if he refurbished and upgraded the place, provided she could pay him rent.
“Everybody likes the oldness about the store,” Lyons protested. “He wanted to clear, liquidate everything out and basically make this look like a little mini Home Depot. We wouldn’t be who we are.”
“That’s exactly right,” said her customer Bryan, nodding in agreement.
That’s part of the reason customers come to Bryan & Holton Hardware as opposed to other hardware stores.
“They carry stuff that you generally can’t find at Home Depot, because it’s old stock,” said a customer who did not wish to be named.
Lyons said she is slowly selling as much of her inventory as she can, at greatly discounted prices. Some of it, like the paint, will likely be donated to Habitat for Humanity.
“I doubt seriously I’m going to find somebody who’s going to want the paint,” she said.
Some of the store’s hold on Pinellas Park history also will be donated. Lyons said she has boxes of old photographs to go through, including those of Park Boulevard when it was a dirt road as well as the construction of Bryan Dairy Road, named after Lyons’ great-grandfather and the original storeowner. Most of them, including an old firefighter hat, will go to the Pinellas Park Historical Society.
“I would rather them be enjoyed by other people,” Lyons said.
Lyons said she wasn’t sure what she would do next. The store will officially close on Sept. 30, but Lyons will have until Oct. 13 to be completely cleared out. She knows she’ll have to move herself and her two dogs into the home she’s been renting out.
“I’d like to take at least a three-month break, just to get me back. From there, I don’t know. I’ve got a lot of knowledge under my belt,” she explained. “The problem is, there’s got to be jobs to be gotten.”
She said that the transition might be the break she needs in what’s been a downhill slide since she ended a 13-year-relationship five years ago.
“In a way, I’m ready to throw the towel in and just be done with it,” she said. “I’ve had a hard time for five years.”
She said she hopes that after the election in November, people will realize that politicians can’t solve the nation’s financial woes.
“I think that people will loosen up and figure (that) we as the American public – if we don’t do something about this and give up on the politics, we’re going to fall apart,” she said.