The History of The Old Forge Hardware

Located on the busy corner of Crosby Boulevard, Fulton Street and Route 28, The Old Forge Hardware has served as a bustling center of commerce for over 100 years.

North View of Main Street- Busy Corner

Moses Cohen first came to Old Forge around 1900 as an itinerant peddler of hardware goods when there were but 15 buildings on Main Street and a few outlying camps and hotels on the lakes. In 1901, he returned with a horse and cutter and hardware supplies that he bought in Utica with the intent to open a store in the village.

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Moses Cohen – center of the photo in the white shirt

In 1902, Moses purchased a 75’ x 150’ lot from the Old Forge Company for $500 on the corner of Fulton St. and Crosby Blvd. at the busy corner. The purchase included a promise to build a store that cost $20,000.

Original Building

The hardware business was an immediate success and saved local home, camp, and hotel owners from ordering goods from Utica that had to be shipped with freight.

Early photo of the four-story Hardware Store and the two-story former school house

Early photo of the four-story Hardware Store and the two-story former school house

Below is a quote from 1922 for cement from The Old Forge Hardware for customer E.W. Covey of Big Moose:

Letter to Earl Covey

On May 10th, 1922 a disastrous fire spread to The Old Forge Hardware and Furnishings Store destroying it and causing damages to other buildings. The loss was estimated between $150,000- $200,000 and the fire nearly destroyed the entire business district in the town. The local fire department did everything they could to fight the blaze but were paralyzed for a time as bullets whizzed out of the Hardware Store. To complicate matters even more volatile paints, turpentine and even dynamite were said to have fueled the flames.

Busy Corner- Original Old Forge Hardware Building

Moses elected to rebuild immediately. As he said in 1923, he made his money here in this small wilderness community, and he wasn’t going to let the disastrous fire keep him from serving those who had helped him build his fortune. Palatial glass windows dominated the new design, the likes of which brought pride to all residents and visitors of Old Forge. The grand reopening took place on Memorial Day in 1923.

Cohen Sign

In the 1930’s Moses’ son A. Richard began managing the store. In the 1950’s Moses and A. Richard worked together to expand the store into the surrounding lots. They also widened the array of goods to stoves, snowshoes, camping supplies and locally made items such as baskets, paintings, cards and books. It was about that same time when Henry “Hank” Kashiwa became employed by A. Richard. Hank worked in and managed the store with a kind and knowledgeable manner for 50 years.

 

As Hank’s time with the store came to a close in 2000, Mike Wilcox stepped up as manager along side of Sarah and Linda Cohen as they took over their father’s reign on the Hardware Empire. The store continued growing with art supplies, clothing, gourmet foods, Adirondack furniture and a complete yarn and knitting selection.

In 2008, Mike Wilcox’s daughter Erica and her husband Terry Murray became the new store owners. Although the iconic store was changing hands, the Cohen and Wilcox families had been associated with one another for four generations. Erica’s grandfather Leslie Wilcox did business with the Cohens. Wilcox operated the Mohawk, also known as the pickle boat, which brought groceries and goods to camps and hotels along the lakes.

Inside the Original Building- Overlooking the Hardware Department

The store that began with one man’s vision has continued to flourish under the watchful eye of the generations that followed. The Old Forge Hardware has stood the test of time and it’s success continues today because of the spirit that is represented here… family, hard work, and the Adirondack way of life.

Old Forge Hardware Today