Orville and Mildred Bryant
Boulevard Merchants

Picture of
 Orville and Mildred Bryant

On October 10, 1984, the Brookline Chamber of Commerce held a recognition dinner to honor a man who, for fifty-seven years (up to that time), had operated a hardware store on Brookline Boulevard. It is a fair estimate that anyone who lived in Brookline during the half century of 1930-1980 knew Orville Bryant, the owner, for sixty-three years before retirement in 1990, of Bryant's Hardware.

Most likely, at one time or another, you chanced into his store for some nuts and bolts, or sandpaper, and met another wonderful person upon checkout, Orville's partner and devoted wife Mildred, who handled the register keys for over 50 years.

Mr. And Mrs. Bryant were as much a part of the Brookline community as automobiles are to Detroit. Their store was located on the 900 block of Brookline Boulevard.

Bryant's Hardware in the 1950s
The original Bryant's Hardware, at 920 Brookline Boulevard, in the early 1950s.

For many years the store was nestled in where the Mazza Pavilion now stands, then moved to the corner of Stebbins and Brookline Boulevard. A smart move in retrospect as in 1973, fire gutted the original building, then occupied by Tryson Shoes.

From their perch they watched as Brookline evolved and grew, supplying the necessary hardware whenever the need arose.

Orville was born in 1906 in Pittsburgh and grew up in the West End. His father, Charles S. Bryant was a well-known photographer. In 1927, Orville opened his hardware store at 920 Brookline Boulevard. He and wife Mildred moved to Woodbourne Avenue from their home in Elliott and spent the next fifty-six years together, devoting their time and energies to raising two children, Orville Jr. and LuAnne, and serving the community of Brookline.

Orville Bryant was one of the founding members of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce, known many years ago as the Brookline Business Men's Association. The first meeting of the organization took place in the basement of his business back in 1929.

Fifty-five years later, in 1984, Orville Bryant was once again on center stage, with Mildred by his side, at a Chamber event. This time he was not there as an organizer or officer, but as an honoree for his dedicated service to the community he loved to serve, Brookline.

Orville retired in 1990 to care for his beloved Mildred, who passed away in July of that year. He sold the store to John Mussitsch of Stebbrook Pharmacy and moved to Shadyside to live with his daughter. His twilight years were spent painting, gardening and playing with his grandchildren. Then, in August of 1993, after a bout with pneumonia, Mr. Bryant passed away at the age of 87.

The Bryant's old hardware store, like so many others (Jay's Hardware, Fred's Hardware and Nolan's Hardware to name a few) that occupied a space in Brookline's business district have disappeared. Today we go to the superstores Busy Beaver, Home Depot or Hechingers. But there was a time, not to long ago, when the corner hardware store was an essential part of a community, and in Brookline, Orville and Mildred Bryant's Hardware was the place to go.

The information above was sent in by Brookline native Orville Bryant Jr. (Wes), who now lives in Naples, Florida, after a long career with Lipton Tea in New Jersey.

"I grew up in Brookline on Woodbourne Avenue from 1938-1960. Went to Carmalt and Brookline Public Schools, then South Hills High School and the University of Pittsburgh. In 1960 I moved to Virginia as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army."

"Many years were spent playing and working on Brookline Boulevard at my parents hardware store. Brookline was a great place to grow up. I have lots of great memories."

Bryant's Hardware - 1985
For many years a familiar site to walkers along Brookline Boulevard.
The Bryant's Hardware sign at the corner of Stebbins Avenue.

Below are some excerpts from a Brookline Journal article, dated October 4, 1984, announcing a recognition dinner for Orville Bryant.

Long-Time Businessmen Honored

If they decided to join forces, Brookline businessmen Thomas Shannock and Orville Bryant probably could lay claim to a local longevity record.

Orville Bryant - 1984

Between the two, Shannock and Bryant have been in business in Brookline for 104 years. As it is, Jim Moran of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce thinks the long-time plumber and the veteran hardware store owner still might end up in the record books.

Shannock, 77, who started his plumbing business in 1937, and Bryant, 79, who opened his hardware store 10 years earlier, are still operating those businesses.

"I think theirs is a record, especially for businesses that have operated all that time under the original owner," said Moran.

Record or not, Moran and the chamber still think enough of Shannock's and Bryant's accomplishments to want to honor the two businessmen.

On October 10, 8:00pm, that's what will be taking place at Brookline Boulevard International Hall when the Chamber fetes the two at a recognition dinner.

Both Shannock and Bryant expressed surprise and pleasure at the Chamber's decision.

"I appreciate it. I'm just a plumber, a hard-working man, you know what I mean," said Shannock. His sentiments were echoed by Bryant, who added, "I never expected anything like this."

Bryant, who moved to Brookline from Elliott in 1934 after opening his hardware store at 920 Brookline Boulevard in 1927, says his earliest memories of the town are of people seated on front porches, waving and chatting with their neighbors.

"Today, you can live up the street from someone and not really know them," he mused. But Bryant says it is his memories of Brookline and its businesses that stand out in sharpest contrast.

"The boulevard was red brick and was really two streets, separated by streetcar tracks. The residences were on one side, the businesses on the other. People were everywhere. There were 12 grocery stores before the depression, three A&Ps, Butlers, Donahoes, Krogers, some independent stores, four butcher shops and four drug stores."

Though shopping malls have done their part to change the business climate, Bryant says the residences still "kept up better than other neighborhoods. We've managed to maintain that one-family, single-home atmosphere."

His own business has moved up the street, to 900 Brookline Boulevard, but in the fifty-seven years since it opened, that's all Bryant has changed about it.

"Basically, we run a nice, clean business and we try to be of assistance to our customers," says Bryant, adding jovially, "And we don't even charge a fee for that assistance like some of the lawyers and doctors do."

The Brookline hardware store owner credits his longevity in the business to being able to work those many hours a week at a slower place.

"My health made that necessary," he added.

His wife, Mildred, has also been a helpmate in the business for nearly forty years. She will be at the dinner on Wednesday, cheering his award.

"I think it's very nice. He has always been active in the Chamber of Commerce, even back when it was still the Brookline Businessmen's Association and he was the secretary," she said.

Though the Bryant's children, Orville Jr. of Demarest, N.J., a 22-year employee of Lipton Tea Co., and Luanne Driver of Akron, Ohio, director of education at a Canton, Ohio hospital, and their five grandchildren won't be there to see Bryant honored, the Brookline businessman says all of them have expressed pride in his accomplishment.

Moran says the Chamber believes Shannock and Bryant will prove an inspiration to some of the town's newer businesses.

"These men prove that if you work hard at a business and suffer through the bad times, you'll be there for the good times."

Bryant's Hardware - 1989
Bryant's Hardware in 1989. Photo contributed by Linda Bryant-Smith.