Ray Durfee, hardware store owner and veteran of R.I. politics, dies at 88 CRANSTON — Ray Durfee, who for decades ran Durfee Hardware in Rolfe Square, an old-fashioned family-run store that has become a quaint counterpoint to modern big-box chain … see full wiki
A fond farewell to our of our town's most beloved citizens.
Feb 4, 2011
Ray Durfee died this week. While it is a pretty safe bet that you were not acquainted with Mr. Durfee personally I suspect you know someone a lot like him in your own home town. In Cranston, RI where I grew up and still reside Ray Durfee was a much beloved figure. He was the proprietor of Durfee's Hardware Store, an old-fashioned family owned business started by his father way back in 1930. Remarkably, Ray Durfee was still working six days a week at his store until he became ill back in November. He was 88 years old. The store and our city just won't be the same without him.
Ray Durfee wore lots of hats during his long lifetime. Aside from being a highly respected businessman Ray was a civic leader and a devoted family man. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korean War and spent 16 years in the state legislature. Mr. Durfee was the very antithesis of Barack Obama and the Democrats in Washington who seek to control just about every aspect of your life. Ray was a soft spoken and gentle man who operated his business in much the same way that his father did decades earlier. He believed in the inherent goodness of people and was a great guy himself. Walking into Durfee's is like taking a step back in time. There are oiled pine floors and the ceiling is fashioned from molded tin. The store looks much the same as it did when I was growing up in the 1960's. There is something very comforting about that. The employees are extremely knowledgeable and always very helpful and courteous. Ray Durfee would have it no other way. Furthermore, you can find just about anything you might need at Durfee's. It has been said that if you can't find it at Durfee's Hardware you probably don't need it. And where else in town can you get a pipethreaded, a lamp rewired or a broken window or screen repaired? Lots of local contractors patronize Durfee's Hardware and leave their business cards with the staff. So if I am looking for a handy man to come in and do some work around my house I can always connect with that individual at Durfee's. And what I like most about doing business at Durfee's is that it is still a great place to meet and greet your friends and neighbors. Mr. Durfee encouraged that sort of thing and was always happy to engage in conversation with his valued customers.
Several months ago, I wrote a piece on Lunch entitled "Economics 101": Why You Should Support Local Businesses". The inspiration for that essay was Durfee's Hardware. Locally owned businesses like Durfee's provide jobs for area residents and are important boosters of local charities, youth sports groups and civic organizations. Economists will tell you that dollars spent at local establishments like Durfee's have a far greater impact on the local economy than money spent at the big-box stores whose corporate offices may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away. It is at places like Durfee's that wisdom and know-how are handed down from generation to generation. We are all just a little bit poorer when great local businesses like Durfee's disappear from the scene. Now that Ray Durfee is gone I am praying that his sons will carry on the tradition. Still, it just won't be the same without Ray standing behind the counter dressed as always in his dark suit and trademark bow tie. He was one of the kindest men I have ever known. I am really going to miss him. Rest in peace, Ray.