Beacon Paint & Hardware was a staple on the Upper West Side for more than a century. Sadly, on Monday, Feb. 17, it closed its doors for good.
From 1900 to 1940, Beacon Paint was located on the west side of Amsterdam Avenue between 77th and 78th Streets. It moved to its current location at 371 Amsterdam in 1940, and in 1971 the business was sold to Mel Stark.
Stark passed on the store to his three children, Bruce, Steven and Ellen Gabe-Stark, who became fulltime owners in 2005.
An emotional Bruce Stark, 62, told Straus News that they simply could not keep up with Amazon and big box stores like Home Depot. They hung on as long as they could – Stark said his accountant thought they would close 10 years ago. But with a small staff and working seven days a week, enough was enough, he said.
“I shed a lot of tears over it,” Stark said. “I find it hard to talk about now too.”
While there was a GoFundMe page that raised near $5,000 last spring, it didn’t do the trick. Stark explained this light winter did not help – the store still has shovels and salt from winter 2018.
A Family Business
Bruce and his siblings grew up in the business. As a child, Bruce would come to work with his dad on the weekends. He got his first job at the age of 14 and never left. After graduating from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, he immediately came home to work at the store.
His father taught him how to fix things, how to treat people, be fair, respectful and to always put customers first. “I loved every minute of it,” Stark recalled. “He was a good teacher. He explained to me why something was done like that.”
Over the years, Beacon has been an integral part of the community. The Stark family has seen three generations of customers come through their doors, and for that loyalty, they have given back. The many charitable acts the store was known for include donating the materials needed to clean graffiti off mailboxes and repaint them, giving hundreds of gallons of mismatched paint to non-profit organizations, and providing a “Bucket O’ Tools” to nearly every school in the neighborhood for their annual auctions.
And for nearly 20 years, Beacon Paint has sponsored a walkathon to benefit various charities, including Guiding Eyes for the Blind, raising thousands of dollars over the years. “I love this community and the community loves me,” Stark said. “They would rather support the small guy than go to the big box stores.”
Recognized for Good Service
While Stark said he and his family never went looking for recognition, the store has been honored on more than one occasion.
In 2008, it was New York Small Business of the Year, Paint Dealer Magazine’s North American Paint Dealer of the Year and a Forbes Enterprise Award; being named the number one hardware store on the West Side. Also, in 2011, Beacon Paint was a winner of a WESTY Award from the West Side Spirit.
But, the Stark family is ready for a new chapter in their lives. They will be going to work for Janovic Paints. Bruce will be part of the management team at their West 72nd Street store (between Amsterdam & Columbus). Steven will be an outside salesman and Ellen will be in their office.
While he is devastated that they had to close, Stark is glad they were able to have such a powerful impact on the community. “I wanted it to go on forever,” Stark said. “I do have to be proud of everything I’ve done.”
“I wanted it to go on forever." Bruce Stark