It'll be business as usual for Madison Park Hardware

Contrary to rumors, longtime owner Lola McKee has no intentions of retiring soon

It'll be business as usual for Madison Park Hardware

It'll be business as usual for Madison Park Hardware

Though rumors have been circulating about the status of Madison Park Hardware, the store is “not closing,” said owner Lola McKee.

McKee has not made any decisions yet except that at some point, “it will be up for sale,” she said. “I won’t be making any decisions for a while.”

A neighborhood family
People began asking questions after her son, Scott McKee, passed away several months ago. He had managed the store and was well-known in the neighborhood.

The hundreds who gathered at nearby McGilvra’s restaurant to honor him were a testament to that. He was known to teach young customers how to make potato guns and slingshots, and knew their parents well enough to help them get away with it.

Peter Johnson, owner of McGilvra’s, estimated there were 450 people at the service. He described the crowd as “male, female, black, white — you had people that were 20 year olds and people that were 80 year olds.

“[Scott McKee] was always friendly, always helpful — just a fantastic guy,” Johnson said. “You see that many people at a funeral and you know you made an impact on people’s lives.”

In the time since Scott McKee’s passing, the community has rallied around Madison Park Hardware and the McKee family. They received dozens of condolence cards, calls and visits from customers and friends.

John Mabbott, store manager of neighboring shop Pharmaca, described the community response as “people signing cards, people coming in to ask what happened.… After that, it was just an outpouring of love and care like I don’t know that I’ve ever seen. It was something.”

Mabbott, who has been in Seattle retail for 30 years, said, “That just really shows what community small business is when it’s at its very best.… It’s pretty special.”

“The community has been absolutely fantastic,” Lola McKee said. “Unbelievable…. I live in the best neighborhood.”

Loyalty runs both ways
One of McKee’s daughters is still working at the store and has been there for 23 years. There are several other employees — one who’s been there for 10 years — but it’s still a small staff of about five. So who’s currently running the store?

“I am!” McKee said. And though her daughter takes on most of the in-store work while Lola McKee “does the books” from home, she is often in, catching up with her loyal customers.
“Otherwise,” she explained, “I miss them.”

She talks to and about her customers like family — and many of them see her the same way. When a TV news station mistakenly ran a picture of Madison Park Hardware with a story about a different store closing, the McKees even had concerned customers calling from California. It’s clear that in its 54 years of operation, this shop has had an impact.

McKee does plan on eventually taking more time to rest, but said, “I’ll be around for a while. I’ll always work part-time somewhere. I don’t plan on retiring.”

She told customers while walking them to the door, “I’m going to be 85 soon…. There’s only so much vacuuming you can do!”

In it for the long haul
The McKee family opened Madison Park Hardware in 1956, when there were “just small little stores,” as McKee described it.

Even as big department stores developed and hardware chains popped up, Madison Park Hardware remained — but not by getting bigger or altering its image.

“It hasn’t changed,” McKee said. “We got a new front door — that’s about all that’s changed. We’ve stayed the same — it’s just a funky, little store.”

And with customers as loyal as hers, McKee doesn’t need to worry about losing them to big stores. She doesn’t even consider them as being in the same market.

“They don’t bother us,” McKee said of the mega-chains. “We’re strictly a neighborhood store.”

As for the future of the store, McKee doesn’t know any specifics just yet. The spirited shop owner is confident, however, that Madison Park residents will still be able to come to this spot for all of their hardware needs.

“It will [remain] a hardware store,” she said. “There’s no doubt in my mind!”

Although McKee has had a lot to deal with lately, she has the support of family, a longtime staff and a new pacemaker to help her get through it.

What keeps McKee coming in to work at the store is her customers — the caring community that has rallied around her. That, and a charming feistiness cultivated by nearly 85 years of life.

“These are tough times,” she said. “But we’re tough.”[[In-content Ad]]