John Newsome remembers making butter from the family cow's milk in Lakeland during the 1940s. These days, when he shakes a glass jar to separate cream or improvises an orange-picking pole from a bamboo fishing rod, Newsome demonstrates that "there's nothing obsolete in hardware."
The owner-operator of Dade City Hardware for 52 years, Newsome maintains a low-tech approach to business with merchandise ranging from state-of-the-art supplies to retro appliances that could decorate scenes from Mad Men.
"Everything is original and new," Newsome said, "even if it's been on the shelf for 65 years."
Newsome, 79, and his daughter Jo Endress, 53, man the phones and an old-fashioned cash register while concentrating on customer service. Among the cobwebs, the 4,000-square-foot space is packed with tools and gadgets priced to sell to contractors, farmers and do-it-yourselfers.
"You won't find us on Facebook," Endress said. "In fact, we don't have a computer or voicemail."
It may seem like a time warp as you enter Dade City Hardware on Seventh Street. But Newsome claims that best-selling plumbing and electrical fixtures "keep up with the times as we roll along."
His wholesale vendors visit every Wednesday, and Newsome and Endress attend hardware shows annually.
For many years, Dade City Hardware coexisted with Case Hardware two doors away. In 2005, Case was torn down and paved over. Newsome and Endress still regard the big box stores, like Home Depot or Lowes, as no competition.
Looking for a push plow, grove scuffle hoes, a wood burning stove or an old-fashioned scythe?
"We got 'em," said Marshall Briscoe, Newsome's right-hand man for the past five years. Almost two years ago, "the boss" called back retired former employee Grady Herring to work part-time.
"It's hard sometimes when a customer describes an item rather than naming it," Briscoe said. "We have to read between the lines a lot. But camera phones have solved that problem."
The store also sells hard-to-find old auto parts and hardware for jalousie windows. Nails and screws sell by the pound and electrical wire is available by the foot, rather than prepackaged. A vintage red Radio Flyer tricycle is displayed in the window adjacent to Corelle living ware dishes, coffee percolators and oil lamps.
Local cattle rancher and retired veterinarian Richard Smalley has been a customer for 40 years.
"Johnny has everything I need," he said, "and he knows where it is."
Charlie Kirksey, a 40-year veteran service technician for Century Link, grew up at the hardware store. As a 10-year-old in 1966, he opened an account at Dade City Hardware.
"I sold all my pigs and bought a .22(-caliber) rifle for $98," he said. "I must have shot up a million cans."
Kirksey married Endress' friend, and when their son joined a T-ball league, Johnny Newsome dug into the archives.
"He pulled out a bag of 30-year-old black and white Dade City Little League T-shirts," Kirksey said. "Johnny has everything in captivity. If they don't have it, you don't need it."