65 Rolfe St.
Cranston, RI 02910
401-461-0800

Durfee Hardware was built in 1929 by Clarence Lester Durfee (the "C. L." Durfee for those of you who have seen the original sign on the store!) and his wife Gertrude Durfee. Clarence had a love for woodworking and building projects and started the store on land in Cranston that at the time was populated only with apple trees. He had just left a gasoline and oil distribution business (Gulf Oil) on Cranston Street in Providence and had decided a hardware store would be a better career move than his second choice........the ice delivery business!!! (Good choice, Clarence!)

The original store was the one-story section of the building that exists today. Rolfe Street is now the center of Cranston, situated down the street from the City Hall, but when the store was initially built, it was still an unpaved road where the trolley brought people out of the big city of Providence and into the "country". In fact, Clarence was instrumental in the creation of the first local volunteer fire department. Soon the area began to grow into the densely populated community it is today, and Durfee's was there to provide the needed hardware for the new construction.The store prospered with the development of the community, and Durfee's reputation as "the place to go when you can't find it anywhere else" began.

 

Our hours of operation have varied over the years. From the beginning, the store was never open on Sundays, but was open till 9:00 PM. I understand that they would only lock the door when no more customers came so some nights they would stay open until 11:00 PM. And the store was closed on Wednesdays for a great many years, because Clarence wanted to make his Rotary Club meetings and couldn't leave the store unattended! Wednesday closings became a tradition that lasted well into the 1980's! Another example of how times change - for many years the store closed down for a week annually so that our family could take a vacation. Imagine a retial store doing that today!

From the time the hardware store was built until the late 1930's, there was an old two story house right next door. That house was moved in the 1930's to a location farther away from the store to allow for more customer parking directly adjacent to the store. It actually was home for the Ray and Betty Durfee for a few years in the 1950's and in subsequent years was converted into rental property. (That house was recently torn down to make way for the new home of the Cranston Post Office.)

 

With business on the upswing, the two-story addition was added onto the side of the building in 1933. In the early days, the store was an old time department store.......over the years we have sold washers, dryers, refrigerators, TV sets, toys, guns (both real and BB), boats, and even shoes!! But we always made sure our core business remained our hardware business.

Clarence's son, Ray, grew up around the store and returned to help his parents after graduating from Brown University and spending two tours of duty in the Navy. Ray took over the reins of the business as President after World War II, and the Company was incorporated in 1960. Ray made the decision to join the True Value buying cooperative in 1972, as he could see that combining the purchasing power of many stores would be the best way for the store to compete with larger building supply houses. (This choice allows us to compete with the "big boxes" of today.)

 

Finally, a third generation joined in as one of Ray's three sons, Paul, came to work at the store after he graduated from Boston University. Around that time, a two-story section of the store, on the south side of the store, was built and became the final addition to the complex. We also have a two-story warehouse behind the main store that's filled with pallets of fertilizer, limestone, pipes, nails, etc. The building that connects the store to the warehouse contains the glass room, where we cut glass and repair windows and screens.

These days, you may see members of the fourth generation of the Durfee family working at the store, as Clarence's great-grandchildren learn how to repair windows and screens, "stock up" inventory, and provide customers with our well known "Durfee Hardware Service".

 

We are now in our 76th year of business. We are proud to say that.........not many businesses can. Over the years, we have "modernized" a little. We don't close Wednesdays anymore. We have made the aisles wider, expanded the retail space of the hardware department, gotten a color-matching computer and checkout scanners to make things more convenient. We even have air-conditioning and this new website!

But many things haven't needed changing. So we haven't changed them. They're the things that make Durfee's unique. It's the wooden floors, the tin ceilings, the skylights, and our key room with the proverbs and corny jokes on the walls. It's selecting your own nails by the pound and measuring them on the old-time scale. It's the $2 bills we hand out in your change, our long-time employees who take an interest in your projects, and the exceptional value found in all the products we sell.

If you have never been to Durfee's, we hope the photos and the information in this website will convince you to stop in and give us a try.