History of Cornell's Hardware
Cornell's traces its root back to the early 1800's, making it one of the oldest business entities in Westchester county. The store first appeared as a general store in the village of Tuckahoe, New York, around 1800. Tuckahoe was a bustling village, known around the country for its marble quarries. After the British burned Washington DC during the War of 1812, Tuckahoe quarries provided much of the marble used to rebuild the Capitol Building and other government structures.
In the late 1800's, the general store became a hardware store, owned by William H. Rubly. Mr. Rubly invented and patented a fastener which became known as the "Tuckahoe Toggle Bolt", a variation on the common toggle bolt we still use today.
Around 1908, the store was purchased by two brothers, Charlie and Bailey Cornell. They incorporated the store as Cornell Brothers Inc. in 1909, and built it into a thriving hardware mecca.
John Fix (1902-1997) began working at Cornell's in 1916, after school and weekends. Over time, he bought into the business, and managed the store along with the Cornell family. When the business began to falter during the Great Depression, the Cornell family asked Fix to buy the remainder of the stock from them. They felt that the staff needed to be trimmed in order for the business to survive, but felt that their Quaker heritage prevented them from firing any of the staff. Fix managed to secure a loan ($1000 cash, $9000 in notes), and he bought the remainder of the stock from the Cornell family. Fix worked with the existing staff and they all agreed to modest salary reductions, and the business survived the depression, and wartime material shortages.
The business suffered a devastating blow on Sunday, March 10, 1946, when an early morning fire swept through the store. Destruction was almost total, with only the shell of the building remaining once the smoke had cleared. We've posted a video that shows the old Cornell's building prior, during the fire, and immediately after the fire.
After the fire, local suppliers jumped to the aid of Cornell's, providing temporary retail space and loaning store fixtures while the original building was rebuilt. John Fix's two sons, John Jr. and Thomas, served in the U.S. Air Force during the 1950's before returning to Tuckahoe to join the family business. Business was booming, and in 1958 a branch store was opened about a mile away at 358 White Plains Road in Eastchester (a space now occupied by HSBC Bank). When additional space became available alongside the Eastchester store in 1962, the Tuckahoe location was closed and all merchandise was moved to the new location.
In 1962, Cornell's joined Cotter & Company, a rapidly expanding hardware wholesale cooperative.... better known as True Value hardware. Business continued to grow, thanks in part to the True Value advertising programs.
In 1972, as the lease came close to renewal, it became obvious that Cornell's had outgrown the space available. A vacant lot was purchased about two blocks south of the store, and in 1973 construction began on a new building. The new store opened in January of 1974, with 9,000 square feet of retail space, and another 9,000 square feet of warehouse space in the basement.
The store still occupies the building opened in 1974, though we have added a second floor and opened up our basement area for our retail customers. With the purchase of a building directly across the street we've managed to increase space by about 4,000 square feet. The new building houses our full service True Value Rental store, with a large garage attached used for maintenance and storage of our rental equipment.
Today the store is managed by the third generation of Fix family at Cornell's, John Fix 3rd, Mary Beth (Fix) Wellington, and Thomas Fix. John Fix Jr. stops in on occasion to make sure things are running smoothly. John Fix Sr passed away in December 1997, at the age of 95.
Madeline Williams served as our bookkeeper for over 60 years. She retired in October 1997 and passed away in 2003. We've put together a brief story about her tenure at the store as well as her retirement party here.