The End of ANOTHER Rockland Tradition

Hadeler Hardware in Pearl River closing up shop after more than 100 years

BY ALLAN GOLDSTEIN

Photo in front of store circa 1912

In a few short weeks a Rockland County institution for over 100 years will be closing its doors for the final time. The Hadeler General Store opened for business in 1905 in what was then the quiet country community of Pearl River. Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, the great San Francisco Earthquake was a year away and it would not be until April of 1912 when the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage. It would also be quite some time before the familiar building on North Main Street would assume the more recognizable name of Hadeler Hardware.

The current owner Paul Hadeler has been a part of the family business since the late 1950s at the same location that his grandfather George Hadeler had selected after leaving Rockaway, Queens. On December 6, 1905, the Hadelers took over the operation of Hunt’s General Store, renamed it and began their long tenure in Pearl River.

In the early years, Hadeler’s remained a general store and used a horse-drawn cart to deliver groceries, kerosene, and other merchandise throughout the town. It was the Hadelers who built the first sidewalk in Pearl River, in front of their store, sometime before World War I. Following the war, “My grandfather sold tools to the man that made animal cages for the people at Lederle. That was around 1919 or 1920. He also provided materials to the original F. L. Holt Building and Construction,” commented Paul Hadeler.

He added, “A group of merchants needed a bank in town so my grandfather and seven other local people started the 1st National Bank of Pearl River which is now the Chase Bank right across the street from our store. That was in the early 1920’s.”

In the 1930’s the size of the store was doubled and hardware was added to the inventory. Paul Hadeler notes that, “It wasn’t until after World War II that we stopped carrying food. At that time we continued to sell hardware but also added floor covering, mostly tile and linoleum.”

He continued, “In the late 1930s and early 1940s, my dad (George Hadeler) and other local residents started the Pearl River Savings and Loan to provide money to build and sell homes. That group included Holt who would build the houses, my father who sold and installed the floor covering and window shades, and Beckerle and Brown who did the sewer work.”

Over the intervening decades, Hadeler’s had to be keenly aware of the Rockland County marketplace and a bustling American economy. In the early 1950s the store again doubled in size. At that time it employed 13 workers who traversed the county installing floor covering in a large number of the schools, at Lederle Laboratories and in many other buildings.

The housing boom of the 1960s signaled a move to a full service hardware store and also a center for lawn products. Paul Hadeler commented, “We specialized in lawn products until the mid 1970’s. People needed lawn supplies for the homes being built in the Pearl River area at a time when people did their own landscaping and cut their own grass. We also sold lawn mowers.”

Paul Hadeler

He added, “In the early 1970s a large part of our business became selling prefab fireplaces and stoves. We needed the warehouse at our main location and also three other warehouses throughout Pearl River. We imported stoves from Germany, Austria, Denmark, Washington and Alabama. We sold them in New York, News Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. At that time my brother and father worked here in the store while I was on the road servicing accounts.”

That very successful segment of their business lasted until the mid-1980’s when changing Environmental Protection Agency laws essentially put the small foundries that cast the iron out of business. Paul Hadeler noted, “At that point we had to give away a half million dollars of stoves that could not be sold so we went back to heavy industrial hardware—from nuts and bolts to power equipment before the discount houses started up.”

He added, “Peoples’ tastes have changed over the years. At one time we sold to many European carpenters who needed good tools because that was their livelihood. And we had to change with the times. It wasn’t the Channels or the Rickles at the Nanuet Mall that caused the changes but the change from domestic wholesalers to foreign imports. Also the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs.”

A guiding principle that has been instilled in every member of the Hadeler family is community service. Paul Hadeler remembers, “My father always told us to give back to the community. The community is supporting you, you should support the community.”

He has been a member of the Pearl River Ambulance Corps for over 45 years and also spent a great deal of time with the Explorers division of the Boy Scouts. His father was a member of the local Rotary, Board of Education and the Park Development Committee. His brother was also a Rotary member and a Boy Scout leader

When asked how Pearl River has changed over the past 50 years, Hadeler commented,

Photo from inside "Dolls"

“The town used to have a great deal of stores, many different shops. You could walk through town and find everything that you needed. Over the years we have lost the small shops. We now have a very limited supply of shops and people really don’t walk around town any more. We used to have everything from a hat maker, shoemakers, gift stores, and diners.”

He concluded, “In our store we went from a business serving people who worked around their house to servicing contractors who do the work. Things have changed even over the last 15 years. No longer are things repaired. Now when things get broken you just throw them away.”

As Paul Hadeler looks to the future, Pearl River will also be losing another of the unique small shops which he so fondly remembers. And, in this case, it is very personal because since 1979 his wife Rita has been one of the few doll makers in Rockland County with her store Dreams just around the corner from Hadeler’s.

Rita Hadeler specializes in hand-made porcelain dolls including the clothing and make-up. For many of those years she offered classes in doll making. More recently she added knitting machines so customers could learn that art, too.

Paul Hadeler commented on the closing of Dreams, “Artisans are not appreciated as much as in the past. With factory-made Chinese imports available, things made by hand can’t compete. It always makes Rita proud to see people knitting or making dolls from scratch. She loves seeing them walk out of her store with something they made by hand.”