For Philly Hardware Stores, Staying Open Is a Blessing and a Curse

Even though they are among the essential businesses exempt from Gov. Tom Wolf's order, Philadelphia hardware stores are still feeling the hurt

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Mitchell Cohen rushed to the phone when it rang.

“I’ll take 'em,” Cohen said when he answered it, then repeated the phrase nine times during the minute-long conversation.

The seller on the other end of the line was offering Cohen six containers of disinfectant wipes. Not cases, but containers. 

Cohen is the owner of Cohen & Co. Hardware, a century-old family-owned business on East Passyunk Avenue and one of the few stores left open on a block that’s typically bustling. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close last week in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Even though they are among the essential businesses exempt from the governor's order, Philadelphia hardware stores like Cohen & Co. are still feeling the hurt, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports

While he’s grateful he doesn't have to close, Cohen said the situation is like a bad dream.

People call every day to ask if the store has batteries, or bleach, or light bulbs. Cohen lets just one customer at a time into the small store. One man with a face mask and gloves entered the store Monday morning, looking for something to fix a leaking water heater. 

Barry Wilensky, the namesake of Wilensky Inc. in South Philly, said business at his hardware store is down 60% to 70% since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Wilensky has two lines of business: his locksmith trade and the hardware store. Both are allowed to operate under state guidance for life-sustaining business, but they are still suffering.

Read more about hardware stores' struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic at

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