Virgil's hardware is sold

CENTRAL GLENDALE — Virgil’s Hardware Home Center, long known as the quirky source of everything from eggs to 50-year-old door knobs, has been purchased by the owner of Do-It Center hardware stores after 100 years of family ownership, company representatives confirmed Wednesday.

Chatsworth-based Neiman Reed Lumber Co., which also owns a Do-It Center in Burbank, informed Virgil’s employees of the buyout during a staff meeting Monday, store clerks said.

The change stirred fears among loyal shoppers who often chose the store over other hardware outlets because of its staff expertise, unique selection and sometimes odd offerings.

“I can’t tell you how many people go there to buy their eggs,” said Judee Kendall, executive director of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, who echoed the sentiments of other shoppers worried that the store might lose some of its character with the change in ownership.

By selling parts for older homes that are typically hard to find elsewhere, the store has developed into an important resource for residents and has also become part of the city’s history and traditions, Kendall said, citing the inexplicable popularity of the store’s random supply of eggs.

Former Virgil’s owner Tony Maniscalchi and Neiman Reed executives declined to elaborate on the deal Wednesday, but shoppers feared that the Do-It Center store affiliation would change the hardware shop they had grown to love.

“It depends on what they do with it, but I can’t imagine Do-It Center purchasing something and not having their name on it and having their line of merchandising,” Kendall said.

Customers in the bustling Virgil’s parking lot, 520 N. Glendale Ave., explained they purposely avoided corporate hardware outlets, like Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, because the atmospheres at other stores is not as welcoming.

“They are more service-oriented,” Glendale resident Mary Zajac said of Virgil’s, where she has shopped, and bought eggs, for 35 years. “That’s what you lose when you have a big company.”

Larger stores often have limited staffs and more inexperienced employees who are often unfamiliar with inventory, or perhaps aren’t able to help customers solve their home improvement problems, she said.

“I don’t want to go to a big company, and if it goes to a big company, a big corporation, I’m not going to buy it,” she said.

Glendale resident Linda Mayo, who has shopped at Virgil’s over the past 45 years, worried that the change might bring about staff reductions that could affect the service she enjoys.

“They look over at your broken screw to help find the right one that you need,” Mayo said.

Stocked with crowded sets of shelves loaded with everything from light fixtures to tiki torches, the store layout at Virgil’s is a stark contrast from the airy checkout lines at Do-It Center in Burbank.

Burbank resident Shelley Torrance, who turned to Do-It Center after a trip to Lowe’s proved fruitless, said the store was close to home, but sometimes less convenient than its competitors.

For example, while Lowe’s would allow Torrance to buy sod in flexible quantities, Do-It Center would require her to purchase a large amount, she said.

Still, the service at Do-It Center appeared to be on-par with other outlets, she said.

 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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