To many of her longtime customers and friends, it’s been an open secret for many months that Lola McKee was in the process of selling the suspended-in-time Madison Park Hardware store that she and her family have owned and operated here for the last 54 years. But as anyone who knows McKee knows, she likes to do things in her own way and in her own time.
McKee recently announced that the store has been sold, effective Monday, Nov. 1.
Madison Park Hardware, 1837 42nd Ave. E., will continue to exist in pretty much its current form, and it will still be a local establishment. The new owner, Adam Hagan, is a fifth-generation Madison Park resident whose parents, Susan and Jim Hagan, and grandparents, Mitzi and Bernie Hagan, still live in the Park.
Moreover, the store will continue to be something of a family affair under the new management. “[Hagan]’s mom is going to do the bookwork,” Lola said. “I’m training her.”
Hagan’s father will fill in at the store when needed. For many years, Jim Hagan has been the “Mr. Fixit” of the community, so it’s a natural extension for him to dispense advice and match customers with the right solutions in the store. For that matter, the younger Hagan himself is hardly a stranger to the store, having worked there during both high school and college.
Returning to the fold McKee’s decision to sell the folksy store was driven by several factors: She turned 85 this year; her son Scott, who had been a principal player in running the store, died unexpectedly last December; and her daughter Jeri (known to all as Cookie) does not want to take over store management (“I’m already working 60 hours a week,” she said). So selling the store became something of an imperative.
One big question, however, was whether anyone would want to buy the store under the terms that McKee was hoping to sell it. From the very beginning, she said, her goal was to preserve Madison Park Hardware: “I wanted someone who would keep it a hardware store, who would keep the current employees and who would care about the neighborhood.”
Although she had several offers to do other things with the space, she stuck to the idea that it should remain a hardware store and be owned locally if possible. The end result, she said, is “the absolute best I could have got. I know Scott would be really happy.”
Hagan, 39, has been working in the store since January, just a few weeks after Scott McKee’s death. Hagan’s previous job was with a development company. He said that, after 15 years away from the store, “coming back was just like riding a bike [again].”
Growing up in Madison Park, Hagan attended McGilvra Elementary School and, later, Roosevelt High School. He’s a graduate of the University of Washington. With regard to what he knows about hardware, fixing things and home projects he said, “What I didn’t learn from my dad, I learned from Scott.”
In good hands While the store itself may not be changing all that much, the new and former store owners make quite a contrast, both in appearance and personality.
McKee is quite short, while Hagan is extraordinarily tall. Hagan is relatively youthful, and McKee is very experienced. McKee is a woman of many well-chosen words, and Hagan is a man of few.
But while he may not say a lot, he certainly doesn’t have any problem articulating his vision for the store, which is one that many Madison Park residents will take comfort in.
“The goal is to keep the shopping experience the same,” he said. “There will be some changes behind the scenes, but walking in, you shouldn’t notice a difference.”
The current employees will remain, and the look and feel of the store will be retained. “It’s important to me that we have something that stays like it’s always been here in Madison Park,” he said. “Hopefully, the community will continue to support the store.”
For her part, McKee said, “I have high hopes about the store. It will be fine.”
And with regard to her personal plans? “Oh, I’ll be in the store from time to time as Adam needs help,” she said, noting that she’s only selling the business, not the building. She will continue to be a Madison Park business owner, now of the landlord variety.
She said she expects to continue her involvement with both the Madison Park Business Association and the community council.
But the only upcoming event on her calendar, she reported, is her trip to Hawaii in December. Her daughter Cookie, meanwhile, will move in with her as soon as Cookie sells her own house.
From her vantage point behind the store (where she lives just across the alley), McKee will be able to easily monitor the progress of Madison Park Hardware under its new regime.
This apparently doesn’t intimidate Hagan; in fact, he said he welcomes McKee’s role as an advisor. “She’s the best one at restocking,” he noted, “and at telling us what we’re doing wrong.” BRYAN TAGAS is a Madison Park resident who writes the Madison Park blog (www.madisonparkblogger.com), in which this story was originally published.[[In-content Ad]]