The Early Days
In the early 1920's what is now Pagano's Hardware Mart was a coal and ice distributor. Customers drove into the store via Lincoln Avenue, loaded up their purchases, and exited the store on St. Charles.
As the decades wore on, electricity became more prominent in everyday life -- as did refrigeration. Fewer and fewer people needed coal and ice.
By 1950, the coal and ice distribution business was gone, but the buildings remained. To most, they just looked like buildings. But as Andy Pagano stood across the street, working in his brother's gas station, he saw the perfect location for a hardware store. Later that year, Andy bought the buildings and opened his Alameda hardware store at 1100 Lincoln Avenue.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Pagano's Alameda hardware store grew, serving not only the growing island community, but also customers who lived in Oakland, as well as in Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Marin counties. No matter where someone lived, they considered Pagano's Alameda hardware store to be right in their neighborhood. Homeowners knew Pagano's was just where to go for any kind of plumbing supply fixture, paint for the kitchen, or barbecue for the back yard.
The hardware store's popularity is largely attributable to Andy's philosophy. He wanted customers to find what they needed, ask whatever questions they may have, and leave the hardware store feeling that their time and money were both well spent. Word quickly spread of the always-helpful hardware store with plenty of helpful staff to find just the right tool or supplies.
Modern Times and Changes
In the early 1970s, Andy remained firm in that approach. But he also wanted to provide his customers with the additional efficiency and pricing that a large chain could offer. In the mid-1970s, Pagano's affiliated with Ace Hardware. The hardware store now offered the best of both worlds: Personal service the Alameda hardware store has always been known for, with competitive prices akin to larger retail operations.
That formula proved even more successful, and Pagano's seemed to be growing even faster. In the early 1980s, when the beauty parlor and scuba diving shop next door decided to leave, Andy bought the adjacent buildings, expanding the Alameda hardware store even further.
Although the hardware store flourished, Andy's mind was not always focused on business. A strong community patron, he almost never turned down requests for community causes, and played an instrumental part in preserving Historical Alameda High School. In 1992, he was named Alameda Citizen of the Year. Noting this accomplishment in Congress, Representative Pete Stark said of his constituent: "Alameda indeed has a favorite son."
In 1994, Andy began to think about selling the hardware store. At 78, he wanted to have more time to devote to his grandchildren, to travel, and to the community. But he would not leave Pagano's in just anyone's hands. Among his close friends and associates, David Giovannoli expressed an interest in purchasing the hardware store and taking over Pagano's. Andy agreed, but insisted on three guarantees: 1) That the hardware store name remain Pagano's; 2) That the hardware store retain its old-fashioned look and feel; and 3) Most importantly, that customers continue to receive the same level of service, and the same emphasis on people remain paramount, at the Alameda hardware store he founded.
After his "retirement," Dave took over Pagano's, and Andy remained busier than ever with a long list of community events.
As the 1990s continued, "cocooning" became very popular. Homeowners turned their attention to improving their homes and yards. Increasingly, they came to Pagano's, not just for the basic "fix-it" items, but also hoping to find the plumbing supplies, electrical fixtures, and high-quality adornments that would make their home a true castle. Pagano's, once again, stayed in step with the times, expanding their decorative items while continuing to carry basic hardware and plumbing supplies as well.
Pagano's continued success was cause for celebration. But 2002 was a mixed blessing. In March, Andy Pagano passed away at the age of 85. Hundreds of people mourned the passing of a business owner who was also a dedicated servant to the community he loved.
Later that year, keeping the promise of continuing to serve customers the best way possible, Pagano's expanded again, opening Down The Street just a few doors away from Pagano's entrance on Lincoln Avenue. The shop (named Down The Street because people would call it that anyway) carries seasonal items, including Christmas displays, fireplace and yard accessories, and a host of high-end home furnishings suitable for year-round display.