by Betsy Owens
Do you remember the 1970s TV game show called “The Liars’ Club”? The show, hosted by Allen Ludden, involved a panel of celebrity judges examining unusual-looking objects and offering humorous theories on their possible usage.
Unfortunately for the game show producers, Hinge, the Orlando vintage hardware store that opened last month, didn’t exist back then. Because, in addition to stocking the most comprehensive supply of antique door hardware, bath fixtures, lighting and vintage accents of possibly any other retail store in the history of the universe, Hinge also stocks fanciful items like this:
What are those, you ask? Why, an antique curling iron and a pastry monogram imprint, of course!
If, somehow, you can find a more exhaustive collection of antique fixtures and furnishings somewhere, I will guarantee you that the merchandise isn’t as artfully displayed. If the Disney Imagineers were to design a vintage hardware store, they couldn’t do better than Hinge.
During my visit, I was led on a tour of the showrooms and stockroom by owners Rick and Nancy Bosserman. For this historic preservationist, it was like a trip to the candy store. Literally, in fact, since interspersed between the gorgeous vignettes of antique furnishings and fixtures, are tubs containing old-fashioned candy and boxes of Cracker Jack, in case you get peckish. And you probably will. I defy you to get in and out of Hinge in less than an hour. I could easily lose myself for days in the stockroom alone.
If some of the merchandise looks familiar, you may remember George Baker, aka The Hardware Man, who operated a store at Renniger’s Antique Mall in Mount Dora. When the Bossermans, who visited the store often to find hardware for their 1941 James Gamble Rogers-designed home in Orlando, learned that the Hardware Man was closing his doors, they bought him out, antique padlock, stockroom, and vintage barrel.
For Rick, a man of faith who worked in his family’s real estate brokerage firm, First Realty Advisors, for 40 years, this segue into the hardware business was a calling. “It was obvious to me that the store needed to be purchased, and this great collection needed to remain intact.” So, he’s passed the real estate business to the next generation of Bossermans, while he and Nancy devote themselves full-time to getting Hinge up and running.
The purchase of the business was a leap of faith in more ways than one. Rick had no experience in retail sales, but set about converting an 8,700 square foot building located at 1506 N. Orange Blossom Trail, to a showroom and warehouse.
Then, they had to tackle the inventory. Most of the hardware was housed in a showroom, 5 large storage sheds and 2 45-ft. semi trailers in Mount Dora. “The areas were so crammed full, there was no way to really tell what we were purchasing until we got it to Orlando and started going through the items piece by piece,” said Rick. Rick assembled a team of “Hingeneers,” including the Hardware Man’s daughter Kathy, to pack, move, unpack, clean, sort, and stock more than 3 million pieces of inventory, a process that took about 3 months, and 6 more months to create the showroom. When they opened their doors to the public, they took a conscious break from the unpacking. In fact, when I visited their stocked-to-the gills warehouse and display rooms, I noticed the two semi trailers on the lot out back. “What’s in those?” I asked Rick. “I have no idea,” he laughed. “We have to sell some of our existing inventory before we even open them.”
So, what will you find at Hinge? Come, take a look inside:
They say it’s easy to sell a product you believe in. If this is the case, Hinge will be wildly successful. The Bossermans and their team love vintage hardware.
“They truly don’t make ‘em like they used to,” says Nancy, who has a doctorate in home economics and formerly wrote textbooks. “These products have endured for generations, and most are no longer being made today.”
Rick adds, “our hardware comes from a time when if something was broken, you repaired it, you didn’t throw it away.” He shows me a carpet binder from 1902 that still cranks perfectly. “Runs like a charm,” he smiles.
“Plus,” says Nancy, “not only is this hardware functional, it’s beautiful.”
Indeed, try finding door hardware this beautiful at Home Depot:
Or a bread server with this kind of patina at Williams-Sonoma:
Next up, Rick is working on the company website, www.hingevintagehardware.com, to broaden Hinge’s market to cyberspace.
Lucky for us, we Central Floridians can visit Hinge in person.
Hinge is located at 1506 North Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando. Store hours are Monday through Friday, 10 to 6, and Saturday from 10 to 4.