Filed Under Businesses

Heights Hardware

Near the northern edge of Coventry Village, surrounded by vintage, hip clothing stores, stands one of Cleveland Heights' oldest businesses. Operated by Tom and Andy Gathy, a father-son team, Heights Hardware is in some ways timeless: Oak cabinets, rolling ladders, pressed-tin ceiling, and friendly personalized service have endured. From three blocks south, the store's giant sign–blue-and-white paint on old brick–is readily visible: "Heights Hardware Since 1911." The date might puzzle those who know that Coventry Village emerged in 1919-22. How do we account for the difference?

In 1911, Alfred, Arthur, and Sidney Weiskopf opened Weiskopf Bros. Hardware and Plumbing Company at 1140 East 105th Street in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood. At the time, the surrounding streets were the nucleus of the city's Jewish community. A decade later the brothers, sensing the new trend of Jews moving into the Heights, opened a second location called Weiskopf Bros. Heights Hardware in 1922. They sold their Glenville store three years later to concentrate on serving contractors and homeowners in the midst of the 1920s suburban population boom. A succession of owners continued to operate the original hardware store on East 105th through the 1970s, but the building suffered repeated challenges. It was bombed in 1935, caught fire in 1958, and was robbed at gunpoint by seven juveniles in 1967.

Oscar Elton, son of Hungarian immigrants to Cleveland, bought out the Weiskopfs in 1949, beginning a family connection to the business that remains to this day. Elton sold the business to his distant cousin Carl Weiss in 1969, but continued to work in the store for some 40 more years (into his nineties). Meanwhile, Elton's second cousin, current owner Tom Gathy, fled Europe during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. After six years he arrived in Cleveland and, with some help from Elton, became active in the construction trades. Having become a regular customer at Heights Hardware, Gathy decided to buy the store in 1979.

Over the next two decades Gathy modernized the store, adding new plate-glass windows and neon signage, and affiliating with the Ace independent hardware cooperative in the early 1980s. When new big-box stores opened in the reconfigured Severance Town Center in 1998, Gathy responded decisively. He expanded the store's merchandise by building an extension to replace an old rear carriage house and hiring his son Andy to build for the future. Today Heights Hardware remains a strong presence on Coventry Road by continuing to offer a large product selection, fast service, know-how, and the personal touch.

Audio

From Hungary to Heights Hardware Andy Gathy recounts his father's emigration from Europe in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and tells how his family came to own Heights Hardware. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
That Hardware Smell Andy Gathy reminisces about visiting his father's hardware store as a child. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Pizza from Irv's Andy Gathy remembers his father ordering pizza from the corner deli next door. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Very Unique and Very Old Andy Gathy describes some of Heights Hardware's antique features - its rolling ladder and oak cabinets. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Our Electrical Wizard Andy Gathy notes the contributions of longtime employees Brian DeWitt, Norman Long, and Oscar Elton to Heights Hardware. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Heights Hardware, 1982 This photo shows how Heights Hardware appeared before the Gathy family replaced its front window and signage. Source: City of Cleveland Heights
Weiskopf Bros. Heights Hardware, ca. 1926 The Weiskopf brothers closed their original Glenville hardware store just before this photo of their new Coventry store was taken. Source: City of Cleveland Heights
Heights Hardware Sign is Visible for Blocks, ca. 1938 By the 1930s, many Jewish-owned businesses lined Coventry Road. The J. Benkovitz Delicatessen next to Weiskopf Bros. Heights Hardware was at the northwest corner of Hampshire and Coventry Roads (where Irv's Deli opened years later). These businesses served a growing Jewish community that was still in the process of moving out of Glenville on Cleveland's east side. Source: City of Cleveland Heights
Middle Aisle Heights Hardware is the embodiment of an old-fashioned hardware store with narrow aisles and shelves packed with merchandise. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: 2011
Old Oak Cabinets The built-in oak cabinets on the store's leftmost aisle are original to the store, which opened in 1922. Inside one of the cabinet doors are old labels that read "Weiskopf Bros. Hardware Co." The labels date at least to the late 1940s when the Weiskopfs sold to Oscar Elton. Source: J. Mark Souther Date: 2011
Carefully Labeled Cabinet Drawers Many of the drawers in the old oak cabinets hold every kind of screw imaginable. Source: J. Mark Souther Date: 2011
The Old Rolling Ladder Original to the store, the rolling ladder enables Heights Hardware to make maximum use of its space, including shelves that nearly reach the high ceiling. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: 2011
Old Side Door This side door marks the back of the old store. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: 2011
Heights Hardware Sign Heights Hardware added this neon entrance sign in the early 1980s. Although the sign reads "Established 1911," the store on Coventry dates to 1922. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: 2011
Rear Expansion Area Before the late 1990s, the store's rear wall stood where two yellow-painted ramps lead beyond the old wood floor. Heights Hardware added this extension to expand its stock to position itself to compete against new big-box stores. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: 2011
Wall of Paint Heights Hardware's selection of paints makes for a very colorful scene in the store's right aisle. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: 2011
Heights Hardware in 2011 Stores on either side of Heights Hardware have come and gone, but this Coventry fixture has endured. The store is well situated in the middle of a densely populated apartment district, so landlords and property managers frequent the store. The Gathy family's close knowledge of the city's century-old housing stock make the store an important resource for maintaining Cleveland Heights' many old homes. Creator: J. Mark Souther Date: 2011

Location

1792 Coventry Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44106

Metadata

J. Mark Souther, “Heights Hardware,” Cleveland Historical, accessed September 30, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/453.