TUNKHANNOCK — A Tunkhannock landmark — the structure that formerly housed Gay’s True Value Hardware Store on Bridge Street — was being demolished Tuesday.
Owner Doug Gay said the building — built in 1893 — has been the site of the family-operated store since 1929. Gay’s opened at its new location at 189 East Tioga St. on June 8, he said.
“We’re still having a tough time with this (emotionally),” Gay said. “But the new building came out real well, and customers like it.”
The new store is located on Tunkhannock’s main business street next to Brick’s Supermarket.
Gay said the old building withstood much over the years, including major flooding in 1902, 1914, 1936, 1972 and 2011. But he said the building was affected more by tractor-trailers on the new bypass that opened in 2007, as vibrations from the trucks caused the building to deteriorate.
A new CVS Pharmacy is planned for the site; when the company was ready to move forward on construction, Gay’s was given 90 days to vacate the premises.
“We had to move a lot of stuff in a short period of time,” said Gay. “If it weren’t for all of our wonderful friends who have been our faithful customers for so many years, we never would have been able to pull it off. But that’s what Tunkhannock is all about — we’re one community where people help people out.”
Mayor Norman Ball, who has been Tunkhannock’s mayor for 16 years and managed Gay’s Little League team years ago, said Gay’s hardware store has been a community asset.
“Gay’s has been around a long time,” he said. “Anytime I needed anything, I’d go there. If I couldn’t find what I was looking for, they would find it for me. Gay’s is a staple in this community.”
Ball said the new location is a “beautiful store” — a warehouse transformed into a huge retail operation with more floor space than the old location. “They will do well there,” he said.
The mayor said CVS is spending “a tremendous amount of money” to raise the ground level at the former Gay’s site to enable construction above the flood plain.
“We have the new bypass, the Prince Hotel has been renovated, as had the Dietrich Theater, and we have a new ambulance building, a new fire hall and a new library,” said Ball. “Plus, we have a lot of good restaurants.”
Gay said he watched some of the demolition, but had to leave.
“I don’t even want to go down and look at it right now,” he said. “I’ve spent most of my life there.”
Gay, 70, said he has worked in the building for more than 55 years. The new location offers the same products with the same friendly staff, he said.
“Like always, we’ll do our best,” he said.
The Bridge Street building contained 15,000 square feet of space on four floors. The top two floors were used mainly for storage; the second floor was for parts and service. The first floor was filled with aisle upon aisle of merchandise and departments — from tick removers to Christmas lights and from sporting goods to baby dolls, wagons and bikes.
There were stuffed heads of trophy game mounted everywhere. Two trophy deer hung in Gay’s office.
Gay and his two sons, Dan and Rick, are running the new store.