As the final, final post to One Man’s Tofu before we close up shop for good, we thought that it would be nice to include as a “bonus feature” the first (and only) published work we ever managed to pull off.
This is especially pertinent at this particular time, as it originally appeared in the January 1, 2003 issue of the Pittsburgh City Paper weekly, exactly 10 years ago this week. It was part of CP’s late and lamented “Rant” column, in which CP readers could submit short pieces for publication. The pieces generally consisted of bitching about what ever happened to be stuck in the author’s craw, hence the column’s title. Although our piece wasn’t exactly a “rant” in the traditional sense, the editor liked it enough to publish it in the column anyway.
It was a real thrill for us when it was published, and even though it’s pretty tame (and pretty lame) stuff compared to some of the things we did in OMT, its inclusion here brings a sense of completeness to our canon.
We were paid in the form of a $10 gift certificate for something we didn’t like and so we never used it, if memory serves, and our payment may very well still be lurking in a drawer somewhere. Thus, our amateur status as a writer is assured.
As we read the piece, we were very tempted to go back and do some tinkering with it to improve it and bring it more in line with how we are writing today. But we resisted this, deciding that the right thing to do was to let it stand exactly as it was.
Even though parts of it make us cringe.
We have, however, taken the liberty of restoring our original wording to the only bit of editing by the CP editor that we didn’t agree with — he changed our “more stark” to “starker”, which, at the time, we felt broke the stride of the sentence.
We still do.
ps. You’ll note that we also put up a more appropriate seasonal header image, but don’t go looking in the OMT Gallery for a new entry. We re-used one of the images from last winter.
We really are done, you know.
Gaining Home Depot Not Worth Losing Shadyside’s Rollier’s
By Dave Juliette
I went to Shadyside on a recent Sunday, ostensibly to do some Christmas shopping, but primarily to pay one final visit to Rollier’s Hardware. I recently learned the Rollier’s will be closing its doors permanently after the holidays, yet another victim of national chains like Lowe’s and Home Depot.
I lived in Shadyside for almost 15 years during the ’70s and the ’80s, and Rollier’s was the neighborhood store where I could go for virtually anything I needed. When I rented my first Shadyside apartment, a one-bedroom on Negley just down the street from Walnut, it was Rollier’s that outfitted me with everything, from glassware to bookcases. Its aisles were packed with a wide variety of items from electrical and plumbing supplies to house wares, hand tools, chains of all sizes, clocks, bins and shelving (what are now called “storage solutions”) and much more. We always used to say, paraphrasing Garrison Keillor, “If you can’t find it at Rollier’s, you can probably live without it.”
The people who worked at Rollier’s were always helpful, patient and tolerant, even when the customer was woefully inept (as I tended to be) or downright bizarre (as was not unusual in Shadyside in those days). They made sure that I was properly outfitted for my project both in terms of equipment and advice before I walked out of the store, and would even ask how things went when I returned on subsequent visits. In the checkout line I could usually count on hearing some new tidbit of Walnut Street gossip.
Living in Shadyside, I managed to develop relationships with many who worked at the shops on Walnut Street. Oftentimes, we didn’t know each other’s names, but after a few years of regular visits, a mutual regard began to take shape almost without an awareness that it had developed. This happened to me at Rollier’s fairly early on. The people who worked there seemed to genuinely care about their business, their neighborhood and their customers. To anyone who has had the misfortune to deal with the return counter at Lowe’s in The Waterfront, the contrast could not be more stark.
When I went to Rollier’s that Sunday, I noticed that the area in the back that used to have the gardening equipment had been partitioned off and a small tavern had taken up residence. Also, there were far fewer Christmas decorations than usual, presumably owing to the upcoming closure. I didn’t recognize any of the clerks that were working that day.
But before I went to the checkout, I walked downstairs to the basement where the electrical and plumbing supplies were, and from the back, long-time Rollier’s employee Rick Faller saw me and came out to ask if there was anything I needed. I don’t think that he remembered me, so many years had passed. But I said no, I didn’t need anything. I told him that I lived in Shadyside many years ago, that I read in the paper that they were closing and had come in for one final purchase. I told him how sorry I was that they were closing and he seemed grateful to hear that. I was grateful simply to have had the opportunity to tell him.
I walked back upstairs and stood in the checkout line while the girl behind the counter made arrangements for a new job with the customer ahead of me. I think it was at the cosmetics counter in a store somewhere, maybe on Walnut Street …
The giant national chains may give us lower prices, a wider selection and more convenient hours, but if the Home Depot in East Liberty were to close, people would just go to the one in Monroeville. Some of them might be bigger than others, but essentially they’re all the same. The only reason someone might be upset would be the loss of convenience.
When Rollier’s closes for the final time, we will have lost something increasingly rare: a first-rate neighborhood hardware store. Of course, the Walnut Street of today is not the Walnut Street that I remember, and the closing of Rollier’s is just another step away from the character that once gave Shadyside its unique appeal.
My final purchase? A digital alarm clock. Not a clock radio, just an alarm clock. Every place else I went only had clock-radios, but I didn’t want a clock-radio. I wanted an alarm clock.
Leave it to Rollier’s to have just what I needed.
Reproduced from the Pittsburgh City Paper, 1/1/2003, All Rights Removed.