Thieves Target Historic Hardware Store Going Out of Business

FORDYCE, AR - It has the unmistakable aroma.

"It's just the old hardware smell," Benton Hardware Co. owner, Buster Garlington put it into words. "It's like nuts, bolts and nails."

Benton Hardware has the kind of withered but hardened hands behind the register you would expect to see. It has the friendly faces greeting you as you walk the aisles and it even has the history in the walls and floors 

"[It's] Where Paul "Bear" Bryant wrestled a bear," Garlington revealed.

The legendary coach got his nickname there when the building was theater in the 20s. Bryant grew up in Fordyce.

As much past as the structure contains though, the store itself will soon be history too.

Garlington made his last order Thursday (8/7). He's cut prices and is clearing out merchandise as he prepares to close up shop.

The closing day has been on its way for a while and despite all the sales, there were a few people that allegedly still didn't want to pay the price.

Five thieves including two juveniles kicked in a back door over the July 4th holiday and stole thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.  The theft included 22 firearms and 29 knives.

It's estimated damage: upwards of $8,000.

The massive burglary was not how they wanted the closing to come.

It is a loss that's hard to swallow but not one the owner will let hold him and the business down in its final days.

As an example of the weight the store holds in the community, Garlington says the family of one of the boys accused of breaking in and stealing merchandise actually came up to the store to apologize. 

"You just have to walk it off and forget about it," Garlington said.

Garlington will miss this place. He's been the owner since the 1950s.

"It's gonna be hard to sell it but the building's up for sale."

The familiar faces is what he says he'll have the hardest time letting go.

"I hate to see it go," said Quinton Ledbetter, a 30 year customer.

Another loyal customer, Hazel Hart said, "Only place you can find some things. It's very sad that they're closing up and I hate that they have to do it."

It's customers like these that have kept him coming to work for so many years and the memories he'll hold on to. One thing he won't forget though is the reason he's come to work for so many years.

"Waiting on people, meeting the people," Garlington shared. "That's what I'm gonna miss."

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