Orange Slices - August 20th
Press Releases
Written by orange slices   
Monday, August 26, 2019 02:00 PM

"People usually talk about the multiplier effect of local businesses in economic terms, but it goes well beyond the jobs and tax revenue. Local businesses help make a place feel like home. They know what we need before we need it. They promise and deliver that hard-to-get part, or just the right gift, or the best biscuit in town. And at Fitch Lumber, you get a little extra: some great game day analysis no matter what the game is. Local businesses give us bragging rights, but only as long as we support them." — Bethany Chaney, Carrboro Alderman

 

Fitch Lumber: An Old-Fashioned Modern Store

A Carrboro Jewel.

This is what a hardware store was. This is what a hardware should be. This is what this hardware store still is.

Fitch Lumber, a Carrboro jewel, a multi-generational family business, a de-facto community center and a link to the area’s small-town roots, has been around for more than a century. It started as a lumber business back in 1907, in Mebane, 20 miles to the north in Orange County. As the nearby University of North Carolina prospered and the town grew, founder A.B. Fitch opened a delivery station in Carrboro, by the railroad tracks, in 1923. Twenty-two years later, fire destroyed the Mebane store and all operations were moved to Carrboro.

In the Beginning

When Fitch Lumber first opened its doors in what was then a small mill town, it sold coal, and supplies were delivered by horse and train. But for generations now, locals and visitors have come to North Greensboro Street, where the store has been since 1970, to pick out blue original painter’s tape or choose a trench shovel. Here’s where you can select from a vast variety of crown moldings or find a double-acting spring hinge. There are a dozen different kinds of rope and lamp cords on spools to pick from, and more nails and screws available here than you — well, at least me — would know what to do with.

 

You want a what?

You want a steel squeegee? What size? Wood stain for your deck? What color? Want a lock re-keyed or a saw blade sharpened? A lamp repaired or wood cut to a custom size? Fitch is your place. And it’s also the place, of course, where you can always get a bag of sweet and hot beef jerky near the cash registers.

“Customer service has always been our thing,” Fitch goes on. “People just like to come here. We try to be real involved in the community.”

It's About Neighborhood

In a world of big box home improvement stores, Fitch Lumber is the kind of place where customers actually say hi or wave to each other in passing. It’s a place that has a bin for people to donate new school supplies to local kids who need them. It is a place where a dog can get a treat from the store’s supply of dog biscuits, where family portraits — of the store’s founders — hang on the walls and the guys behind the counter greet shoppers by name. Mac Fitch still walks around the store, talking with customers, answering questions on the phone.

 

Serving the Community

“It’s been a conscious decision to stay a small-town store,” he says. “It’s part of our personality.” Fitch has a lot of regulars, he adds, and that personality is what keeps them coming back. “Our customers really appreciate our people and our service, they like our atmosphere.”

Ninety percent of its business now is with contractors, but with fewer custom homes and more tract houses being built, the store has begun to focus more on remodelers. “The business has drastically changed in the last few years,” Fitch says. The store now does less sheetrock, roofing, and plumbing, and more doors and windows.

Some Things Don't Change

Three of Mac’s sons, the fourth generation, work at the store, ready to take it into the future. The Fitch Lumber seal on the front door still says “since 1907,” and in the center, not surprisingly, is the drawing of a hammer. That hits the nail right on the head.

It's fitting that the Fitch family is part of the Chapel Hill Carrboro Chamber of Commerce's Hall of Fame. 

Miles, Mac, Bernice, and R.B. Fitch