ROCKINGHAM — The Rockingham Downtown Corp.’s second annual featured business of the year banquet saw one store earn some hardware in the form of a plaque — Rockingham Hardware.
The hammer and nail shop beat out Pattan’s Downtown Grille and Scholl’s Mechanical to take home the top prize among downtown businesses.
Rockingham Hardware owner Tommy Wilson had the store passed down to him after his parents owned it for 58 years. Since then he has employed 125 high school students, said Lisa Ledford, mother of one of those students, Patrick.
‘The life skills and work ethic these young people acquire goes further than anything in the classroom,” said Ledford. “Tommy is direct. He expects the same from them in return. When you enter, you’re going to be greeted by two or three high school students. You won’t see a cellphone. They’re always ready to help. A purchase of one nail is just as valuable as the purchase of enough nails to build a house.”
Ledford said these students have learned the value of a strong handshake and a good work ethic from Wilson.
“There’s real value in working and living in Rockingham and Richmond County,” said Wilson. “As we get older, that value increases. I know 95 percent of the people that come in the store. There is a lot of value in Rockingham and Richmond County. God has been good to Tommy Wilson, and God has been good to Rockingham Hardware.”
The keynote speaker of the evening was state Rep. Ken Goodman, and he talked a little about the history of downtown Rockingham through the eyes of someone who had grown up in the middle of it. Goodman owns the former R.W. Goodman Co. furniture store and worked there throughout his life.
When G.R. Kindley was mayor of Rockingham, Goodman said, there was a meeting held at Leath Memorial Library 20 years ago. This was the unofficial beginning of the RDC.
“We went around to all the businesses and raised some money,” he said. “We managed to remove all the power lines and plant all the trees and make Main Street look better.”
As far as his relationship with Wilson and the hardware store, Goodman said, “If you were in business from 1945 to two years ago, there wasn’t a month when we didn’t get a bill from Rockingham Hardware. They kept us afloat many a times.”
Because of his paper route under Neal Cadieu with the Daily Journal at the age of 7, Goodman said he knew where every store was back then and who ran it. He said as he got older and joined the family business at 14, the retail world was beginning to change.
“We had a lot of good leadership downtown,” said Goodman. “We were known as the ‘Star City of the Sandhills.’ Everybody goes to Southern Pines to shop now, but back then, everybody came to Rockingham. We still have good leadership. That’s the thing that we have that a lot of other areas have lost. Now our motto is ‘A City Looking Forward.’”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.