TWENTY-five years in the local hardware industry in the Nowra CBD is set to come to an end for James Stewart at the end of the month.
James worked for Walsh's Mitre 10 from February 19, 1995, prior to taking over the business and launching Stewart's Hardware in March 2016
Stewart's Hardware Nowra will close for the last time on February 29.
James' connection with the hardware industry goes back to 1988 when as a 16-year-old he started at North Nowra Hardware and eventually became assistant manager.
He said the unfortunate demise of the store was due to a variety of reasons including the the current economic climate where many small businesses in Nowra's CBD are struggling to stay open due to online spending and excessive rent rates from landlords.
And also the fact the Bunnings operation at South Nowra is going to more than double its size.
"Many of these factors are forcing a variety of different types of stores to close, or many are moving out of the area, largely to South Nowra," he said.
"It's leaving mostly cafe outlets within the CBD.
"I felt obligated to take on and take over this business to continue the Walsh's family hardware business with good old-fashioned hardware knowledge and service that has been provided to this area since 1877.
I never thought in a million years I would ever get to take over such a long-standing and well-respected business. It was an honour and a privilege.Stewart's Hardware owner James Stewart
"I could not just let it close. I wanted to take it on to continue to provide service to the community, conveniently located in town as an alternative to Bunnings.
"A lot of our customers are elderly and rely on public transport. I feel for them.
"We survived as long as we did, due to their support - we struggled to attract the new generations starting out, whether it be.... buying an old or new home.
"They love Bunnings, the one-stop shop, trading 24 seven, with their sausage sizzles, indoor cafe and playground equipment for the kids, making for a real family day out."
Mr Stewart says he feels he "has let the community down".
"I feel as though I have let a lot of people down, especially those that have supported us and have gotten us this far," he said.
"Terribly sorry. I have really given it my all."
He's only taken three or four days off per year, over the last four years.
"I've missed out on spending time with my wife and family and having holidays due to financial stress, having to work and not being able to pay someone else to work," he said.
James and his family have also really struggled since midway through last year after losing a grandchild.
I wanted to continue the Walsh's family hardware business with good old-fashioned hardware knowledge and service that has been provided to this area since 1877.Stewart's Hardware owner James Stewart
"I realise now there is more in life than work. I need to make more time with the family, as they need me to support them," he said.
Starting as a salesman with Walsh's, James soon became manager of 66 Worrigee Street store, given the task of developing and transforming it into a fully functional hardware store.
"It was largely used as a warehouse and distribution outlet to provide for main store in Junction Street," he said.
"I never thought in a million years I would ever get to take over such a long-standing and well-respected business. It was an honour and a privilege."
Also during that time he has also provided employment for each of his four children before they went off on their own careers.
"Now we have grandchildren, who have loved coming to Pop's shop and running around and playing around with the customers," he said.
To repay his customers and the community for their support throughout the years, Stewart's Hardware is having a 50 per cent off everything storewide until it closes on February 29. Even the shop fittings are for sale.
"I'm going to really miss the shop and all the great people that I've had dealings with over the last 25 years - those who I've helped out with products and advice," he said.
I'm going to really miss the shop and all the great people that I've had dealings with over the last 25 years - those who I've helped out with products and advice. I'm on first-name basis with most of them.Stewart's Hardware owner James Stewart
"I'm on first-name basis with most of them."
During his 25 plus years in the industry, he has certainly seen some changes.
"There has been lots of advances," he said "probably the biggest has been in the paint and the development and continued updating in computer paint matching techniques.
"That was a big game-changer as was the emergence or cordless devices which has also been huge. I remember when they first came in and they were powered by 2.4 or 3.6-volt motors, now they are up to 72 volts. Incredible improvements.
"I want to thank each and every one of our customers for their support and loyalty through the years, thanks and goodbye."
James will take a short break after closing the business but he won't be lost to the local area. He's looking to start Stewart's Handyman Business.