OB Hardware is staying as new owners promise the same quirky vibe
Like Prince Charming looking for the one and only princess able to wear the glass slipper, OB Hardware has found new owners that everyone seems to agree are the perfect fit.
Joe and Jenae Kuchman bought the 102-year-old business in the heart of Ocean Beach from Michael DeEmedio less than a month before the store’s lease was set to run out. They took over Sept. 1.
DeEmedio, his wife, Amanda, and their two young children wanted to move to New Mexico to be closer to relatives. OB Hardware was in danger of shutting down if no one bought it by the time the lease expired in late September.
Time is running out as owner Michael DeEmedio looks for someone to buy and preserve the business.
The Kuchmans, Ocean Beach residents the past 20 years, live just a few steps from the shop. As soon as they learned of the impending sale, they reached out.
Describing the store as “a cornerstone of the town,” Jenae Kuchman said “we’re super excited about keeping it independent and local, about owning the business and just about becoming a bigger part of the community than we already are.”
DeEmedio and Michael Grimes bought the store at 4871 Newport Ave. in 2018 when the former owners, Carl and Carolyn Weidetz, wanted to retire. DeEmedio bought out Grimes in 2020.
“We certainly realized when we bought the place the historical aspect of it,” DeEmedio said. “Part of why we took on this project was because we didn’t want to see something that old and storied be lost to the community. The intent was to own it for a couple of years, turn it around and sell it.”
According to Denny Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association, the store was established in 1919 as Ocean Beach Paint and Hardware and was located on Bacon Street.
By 1954, the name had changed to OB Hardware. Eric DuVall, president of the Ocean Beach Historical Society, said an ad published in the Peninsula News that year referred to the business as “The Old Fashioned Hardware Store.”
Before DeEmedio’s purchase, the Weidetzes owned it for 35 years. The store has been in its current location for about 15 years.
“It would have been a real shame to have had to close the store if we hadn’t sold it. Now that Joe and Jenae have stepped up, all is well with the world.”
— Michael DeEmedio
DeEmedio made several changes to the store that increased revenue and modernized it but kept its character intact.
He turned the entire back room into an organic garden center stocked with seeds, soil, fertilizer, tools, watering cans and more.
“We sell everything except the plants,” he said. “It’s been a big asset for the store and the community as well.”
By changing the shelving from 4 feet to 7 feet high, he was able to free up space and expand inventory, he said. He also rearranged items, “putting things where it made sense” and making it easier for people to find what they need, he added.
The store offers a couple of services that are getting more attention from customers: making keys and window and door screens.
The many changes were noticed by the Kuchmans. DeEmedio managed to upgrade the store without losing its funky vibe, and locals can expect more of the same from the new owners, Jenae said.
“Mike has been really amazing,” she said. “Like a true OB local, he’s helped us and wants this to be a smooth transition for everyone.”
The couple even began working at the store a couple of weeks before their official ownership began, conducting inventory, meeting the store’s six part-time employees — all of whom will be staying — and generally learning the business.
“That’s what makes this different; we’ve never bought a hardware store before, but we assume it’s not this easy for most people,” Jenae said.
With Jenae’s background in marketing and business, she expects to work more on the front end of the store. Joe is an electrical engineer. Thanks to the influence of his father, who just retired from an architecture firm, he spent his childhood remodeling and building. He will be putting his skills to work with OB Hardware.
One change they hope to make is to bring in point-of-sale and inventory systems. “This will help us and our customers by allowing us to keep everything we need in stock,” Jenae said.
Ocean Beach resident Mark Gano, owner of Preferred Restoration and a frequent shopper at OB Hardware, said he appreciates that the new owners also are local.
“I’ve met them and it’s cool that they live here and are a genuine part of the community,” he said. “The store has a great combo of hometown feel, good prices and community support. We depend on them quite a bit. Anytime I need anything, they have it.
“It’s one of the highlights of my day to pick up my products in a local shop and see smiling faces I know.”
Mitch McGinley of First Choice Business Brokers managed the sale. He said there were several offers for the business but would not go into the details of the transaction. The asking price was reported in June as $199,000.
“Mike got what he deserved for the store,” McGinley said. “It was on a very personal level that he made the decision that he did. In the end, he went with the people who live in the community, and that says everything.”
“Everyone involved with this process has shown the utmost integrity,” McGinley added. “Part of why it feels so good is that everyone involved are good, standup people. Everyone also kept the best interest of the community at heart, and that’s unique to OB. I’ve never felt that way anywhere else.”
The Kuchmans have two children — daughter Ember, 5, and son Julian, 4. They often spend family time at the beach, where Joe surfs and both he and Jenae often ride paddleboards.
“Both my husband and I love the walkability of OB, the people here, the quirkiness of the town,” Jenae said. “We want to raise our family here.”
The Kuchmans said they relish the idea of their children growing up around a business with so much history.
“I don’t know that they’ve fully grasped the concept that we actually own the store,” Jenae said with a laugh. “But they love to get seed packets every time we’re there.”
OB resident Billy DeWitt, who owns the recently opened California Wild Ales tasting room across the street from the store, said he couldn’t have built his business without OB Hardware.
A graphic designer by trade, DeWitt said he considers himself more of an artist than a contractor and often bought the wrong-size materials and faced other mishaps in the building process.
“Sometimes I was in there three times a day,” he said. “If I had to go out of town to the nearest hardware store, I’d probably still be working on the place.”
He said he previously met and worked with Joe Kuchman.
“I think the business is in good hands,” DeWitt said. “Its long history has proved it has staying power, and the OB community will not let that place fail. To those of us who live and work here, places like OB Hardware are iconic.”
That doesn’t mean customers don’t have some questions. One of the most frequently asked is about the fate of the upright piano.
The instrument, nestled among the wood stains, turnbuckles and chains for sale, may be old but is kept tuned. It’s not unusual for visitors to suddenly pop in to play a little and leave.
“Joe plays guitar and loves to jam out with our kiddos, so we’re definitely keeping the piano,” Janae said. “Mike has already given us the contacts and we will keep the Sunday afternoon concerts going.”
With his mission complete, DeEmedio said he’s eager to rejoin his family. His wife and children have already made the move to Santa Fe, N.M., so the kids could be ready for the new school year.
“It would have been a real shame to have had to close the store if we hadn’t sold it,” DeEmedio said. “Now that Joe and Jenae have stepped up, all is well with the world.”