|Photo by Mike Montella.|
Brian Murphy knows hardware. With a penchant for tinkering, at 14 Brian got his first job at Empire Hardware in Far Rockaway, testing TV bulbs and cutting glass (my, how things have changed).
So how did this Long Island transplant come to found a rock and roll hardware store in Stone Ridge? When Brian was a child, he would come upstate from Long Island to visit his big sister at SUNY New Paltz. He also visited Delhi with his family. He says, “I loved the country as a kid. I always knew I’d live up here.”
In 1974, he made the fated move to Accord and began working at the local hardware store. Things naturally progressed from there and in 1994 he purchased Marbletown Hardware. According to Brian, at that time, hardware had become a new therapy. “Everyone was doing home improvement.” But Brian noticed that couples would come to the hardware store, and one person would be really into the shopping and one wouldn’t. So he devised a plan to keep everybody happy. “I started hanging pictures of rock and roll musicians so that the other person could enjoy themselves too.”
As far as calling his shop a “rock and roll hardware store,” Brian says the name occurred to him one day after work. He piloted the name in an ad, confiding, “I was not sure how it would be received, if people would be into it. But people really dug it!” They started donating posters and paraphernalia, and soon it became a community thing.
Marbletown Hardware is a local institution. “I have 40 years of selling hardware on 209. I’ve hired through three generations,” Brian says humbly. Not content to sell just your standard hardware fare, Brian is constantly tracking sales and trends and responding to the demands of his customers. That’s why in his aisles you’ll find everything from cookware to lighting to homeopathic medicine. He says, “I like to think of it as a general store. I follow my own thoughts about what would be helpful and I respond to people’s needs.”
Brian advocates “Shop Locally, Give Locally.” He bought a sign with those words from the original president of the Marbletown Business Association, Paul Gordon, in 1994. He remembers with a laugh, “Nobody else would buy it. But I have been a believer of “shop locally” all along, before it became a buzz phrase.”
As far as giving locally, Brian says, “I want to support the community that supports me. I am a transplant. This community embraced me and supported me. I’d like to return the support. I think that is an obligation of a local businessman.”
Rondout Valley Food Pantry is one of the main things Brian is vocal about supporting. “They serve your friends, neighbors, acquaintances. People don’t realize how many people need a leg up once in a while. And this is a way for people to get help and keep their pride and anonymity. The food pantry serves 60,000 meals a year—that is an awful lot of people in need. We are blessed with a lot of affluence, but not everyone and not all the time.”
“RVFP is the perfect way to support. They are not asking you to volunteer, just send money. This is the time for tax planning. Take advantage of the break the government gives you.” For Thanksgiving, the RVFP is giving 150 food baskets to families of all sizes, replete with all the holiday’s traditional fixings. The nonprofit encourages monetary donations, to enable them to buy food in bulk from the Northeast Regional Food Bank, which gives them the best prices and the best food. You can donate via PayPal on their website: rvfoodpantry.com.
Brian’s incredible generosity and community spirit was inspired in part by the John Martyn lyrics: “Mister, mister, when you’re rattling on heaven’s gate/Let me tell you mister, then it’s going to be too late/Oh mister, mister, when you get there/They don’t care how much you saved/They want to know how much you gave away.” He reflects, “From the moment I heard John sing this song, it inspired me to be as generous and giving as I could be. I have lived by these words ever since.”