Owners sell Martin’s Hardware stores

MARTIN CLARK AND his wife Kathleen have owned Martin’s Hardware & Building Supply in Bristol for 27 years. The couple recently decided to sell the hardware store and its sister location in Middlebury to the Aubuchon Company and enter into retirement. Independent photo/Marin Howell

BRISTOL — In 1995 Martin Clark purchased the Bristol hardware store he’d been working at for a decade and reopened it as Martin’s Hardware & Building Supply. Over the next 27 years, Martin and his wife Kathleen would open two more stores in Middlebury and Brattleboro and welcome 25 employees to the Martin’s Hardware family.

Now, the Clarks are preparing to step away from the business they’ve long nurtured as they sell two of their stores to the Aubuchon Hardware Co., a family-owned chain based in Westminster, Mass., and close the third.

The Clarks began the process of exiting the business two years ago, when they started looking to sell their Martin’s Hardware location in Brattleboro. The couple wasn’t able find a buyer for that store, which will permanently close in August, but Martin said they directed buyers’ attention to their Addison County locations to eventually give them the chance to fully retire.

“We had interest from other businesses and decided now was the time,” the 59-year-old business owner said. “The opportunity was there.”

The Clarks said they’re confident with the decision to sell to in particular to Aubuchon, a company they believe shares their commitment to meeting the community’s needs.

“Aubuchon has a great foundation for giving back. For the small businesses in this community, they’ve given so much,” Kathleen said.

Come early October, the couple’s Middlebury and Bristol stores will be fully owned and operated by the Aubuchon firm. Aubuchon will close and merge its existing Court Street, Middlebury, store with the Martin’s Hardware location on Route 7, rebranding that business as Aubuchon Hardware. The Clarks’ 68 West Street store in Bristol will continue to operate as Martin’s Hardware & Building Supply.

Mike Mattson, vice president of marketing for the Aubuchon Company, said the company plans to keep both Martin’s stores open throughout the change in ownership and planned renovations.

“Our plan is to make renovations and improvements to both locations (while they remain fully open) in manageable chunks, which will not overly disrupt day-to-day business operations,” he wrote in an email to the Independent.

The Aubuchon Company also hopes to keep on all 35 employees that currently work at the two Addison County stores, a team Kathleen Clark said is an irreplaceable part of the Martin’s Hardware business.

“The employees are like our extended family,” she said.

Martin Clark added, “We can’t thank our employees enough. It’s their efforts that make this (business) what it is.”

As they near the end of their time owning Martin’s Hardware, the Clarks agreed, employees included, there is one thing that has made the past 27 years so special.

“It’s been the people,” Kathleen said. “The best part of owning a business is waiting on people, and the least fun part is all the paperwork.”

Even though they’re stepping away from their time in the store, the Clarks say they’ll continue to stay active in the county. Martin plans to continue his role as head coach of Mount Abraham Union High School’s varsity boys’ basketball team, and Kathleen said the extra time might give them opportunities to find new ways of serving the community.

“We love our community,” she said. “We will be staying in the community and maybe starting to volunteer in ways that have interested us.”

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