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Montgomery citizen vows to improve Old Mill Corridor

By Staff | Feb 23, 2010

Barry Smith, owner of Smiths Home Improvement Center in Montgomery, stands in what will be a conference room in his new hardware store. Plans to open the retail establishment at the old Rishel building are set for this spring. Shown here is an original all wood jelly cupboard from the late 1800's.

MONTGOMERY – By all means, not an easy endeavor, but an opportunity to make something look better in his neighborhood, was a challenge that Barry Smith and his family could not put off any longer.

Being self employed as a residential construction developer, Smith wanted to develop the old Rishel building on Thomas Ave. just off Route 405 in Montgomery in what is known to the community as the Old Mill Corridor.

“I see this site everyday when I leave my house,” said Smith, “And for four years I wondered why someone didn’t do anything about it.” For sixteen years, Smith lived nearby with his family and two years ago he received an opportunity to lease the building with intent to buy from the previous owner, and put in a local hardware store.

“Over the years, I saw many businesses and retail establishments such as restaurants come and go,” Smith added. With fuel prices and transportation costs rising daily, he felt that the Montgomery community could use a local hardware store to service their needs. “Fuel prices for my business alone were $9,000 last year,” he said. “Having something like this nearby will save money and cut costs for customers, so they don’t have to go very far to get what they need,” he added.

“I can get just about anything a customer wants for residential builders, and have it here in less than one week,” assured Smith who stated that he is working with several distributors both large and small that can supply him with a large variety of items.

The Rishel building, that was vacant for almost 8 years, occupies about 15,000 square feet but only 11,000 of it will be used for the hardware business and Smith’s Home Improvement Center. The remaining space will be utilized for more retail at a later time according to Smith.

Smith announced that the hardware store will be open this spring and it will be co-managed by his wife, Michelle with their three daughters assisting. Since September of 2009, Smith has been cleaning out the building and removing a lot of wood, cardboard and paper that he said was recyclable and taken to the landfill in Allenwood.

It is a large, building with good infrastructure and open rafters, wooden floors, large paned windows, open spaces and brick walls. He plans on using the existing boiler utilizing steamed heat. “The wiring and plumbing were pretty sound and I didn’t have to do too much to it,” he said. Therefore, he can concentrate on his inventory, putting up shelving and displays and finishing his office, workshop and conference room.

When asked about hiring, he said that he hopes to add more employees in the summer months when his contracting business gets busier. He has owned his own business since 1996 and has been doing construction work all of his life.

“I learned the trade from my two grandfathers,” he said, “and I helped both of them build their own homes.” His maternal grandfather, Danny Staugenwhite, age 75 from Linden, will be assisting him in the store when it opens. “He can answer a lot of technical questions while my girls will be working the register, stocking shelves and doing inventory,” he announced. His daughter, Casey who is a junior at Montgomery High School, designed the business logo.

“The entire family is looking forward to the business and helping out,” Smith said. “Danny has been here every week helping with the cleaning and some of the work. After five months I can finally start to see an end coming,” he declared as he opened the door to the nearly finished bathroom he just completed.

He also installed new lights and emergency lighting after he hired an architect so that he could register the plan with the state and meet codes.

Two sets of steps with an outside handicap accessible ramp were also installed, and there is a large parking lot in front with a side entrance. “I want to stay with the old look for the hardware store,” added Smith who is planning on putting up a display of antique tools on the walls inside.

To view photos and follow his plans, go to his website at www.smithshomeimprovements.net