OUR STORE IS THE OLDEST CONTINUOUSLY OPERATED RETAIL STORE IN CALIFORNIA’S HISTORIC RAILROAD TOWN, DATING BACK TO 1894. OUR HISTORY PARALLELS THE HISTORY OF DUNSMUIR.
In 1894, Dunsmuir’s first mayor, ALEXANDER LEVY, rented space for a mercantile in the three story Rostel Building on Sacramento Avenue – which was then called “Front Street.” It was a prime location, being directly across the street from the railroad depot. The town was thriving. The rail line joining Oregon with central California had been completed through Dunsmuir in 1887. The town’s newspaper – the Dunsmuir News – had been in publication since 1890, the elementary school had opened in 1887, the Masonic Lodge had been founded in 1889, and Herman Scherrer had started supplying electricity to the town (generated by the waters of the Sacramento River) in 1891.
Then came the terrible day in April of 1903 when the business district erupted in flames. The Dunsmuir Volunteer Fire Company, which was organized in 1897 battled heroically, but in the end most of the businesses on the street were gone. Levy had been luckier than most. The top floor of the Rostel Building suffered extensive damage but the ground floor was safe except for smoke damage. In a very short time, rebuilding began and by the end of the year, new masonry buildings had replaced the burned wood frame ones and Alexander Levy moved his business one block south to the building that now houses the Brown Trout Gallery. It is interesting that the Rostel Building was repaired – by removing the remains of the third floor and making it into a two story building. It still stands today and is referred to as the “Iron Front” building for its metal facade.
In 1908 JACOB EHERENMAN (the family pronounced it Ernaman) approached Alexander Levy with four prominent business partners and offered to buy the hardware and grocery portion of Levy’s business. A deal was struck and the Tetreau-Eherenman Mercantile Company was founded. The business did well and in 1913 Eherenman and John Harmon bought out the other partners and the name was changed to The J.H.Eherenman Company. In 1927 Eherenman sold the grocery portion of the business to concentrate on hardware.
It was a time of growth for the town. In 1912 STATE HIGHWAY 99 was routed through Dunsmuir via Florence Avenue – which had been locally known as the “back street” and was later renamed Dunsmuir Avenue. The coming of the automobile was changing the commerce of the town. But the railroad was still the driving force and in 1916 Dunsmuir was designated as the headquarters of the Shasta Division of the Southern Pacific Railroad which extended from Gerber, California to Ashland, Oregon. Population grew to 3100 by 1920 and the railroad employed about 2000.
Another fire in 1924 destroyed 12 homes on both sides of a two block area of Florence Avenue and the town’s “business face” changed dramatically. Reconstruction took the form of commercial buildings – catering to the increased automobile traffic on Highway 99. Another tragedy during this time was the death of Jacob Eherenman’s wife, Louise after the birth of their daughter, Martha. At almost the same time, Louise’s sister, Minnie Lockhart’s husband died and left her with two small children, Charles and James. Jake Eherenman invited Minnie Lockhart to share his home and the pair raised their children together.
JAMES LOCKHART (JIM) was raised in the hardware business by his Uncle Jacob Eherenman (Jake). When Jake retired in 1942 Jim Lockhart and Jack LaBarre formed a partnership and the business became L & L HARDWARE & PLUMBING. Over the years the business moved to various locations; the storefront on Pine Street under what is now Premier West Bank, the building in the space where the Dunsmuir Library is today, to the northwest corner of the Travelers Hotel building on Dunsmuir Avenue, and across Pine Street to the building now occupied by the Cornerstone Bakery Cafe. A final move was in 1962 to the present location, the “Brick Garage” building on Dunsmuir Avenue.
THE “BRICK GARAGE” was built in 1916 as an annex to the building on the south (presently Video Station) which in 1912 was the first commercial building on Florence Avenue (now Dunsmuir Avenue), reflecting the change that was coming with State Highway 99. It was originally a Chevrolet and Buick dealership with the new car showroom on the main floor and parts and service departments downstairs. It survived the disastrous fire of 1924 and went through many changes. Young’s Furniture Store, Heath’s Department Store, Collett’s Department Store, and Carol’s Beauty Salon were here before it became L & L Hardware & Plumbing in 1962.
The Business survived the depression years of the 1930s and the war years of the 1940s. By 1957 Southern Pacific had converted from steam to diesel powered locomotives and the workforce in the railroad yards decreased dramatically. In 1961 INTERSTATE HIGHWAY 5 bypassed Dunsmuir and removed the heavy traffic from the center of town. In 1964 the Shasta Division of the Southern Pacific Railroad was eliminated and Dunsmuir became the division point between the Sacramento Division to the south and the Oregon Division to the north. The railroad roundhouse collapsed under a heavy snowstorm in January of 1966 along with other buildings in the town but the hardware store survived.
In 1975 L & L Hardware and Plumbing became DUNSMUIR HARDWARE when it was purchased by Ron and Pat McCloud. It remains in the same location and with the same name today. A fire in 1994 closed the business for 6 months and during reconstruction the decision was made to keep the store as authentic as possible rather than modernizing and losing a hundred years of heritage. In January of 2015 there was another crisis when an out-of-control car crashed through the building front, penetrated to the center of the building and destroyed everything in its path. The business was closed for over five months and again, restoration kept it as authentic as possible.
TODAY the store is a full service True Value Hardware store with modern merchandise and services in a nostalgic setting. We believe in personal service and each of our customers receive our assistance no matter the magnitude of their need – whether they need a twenty-five cent faucet washer or are re-plumbing the entire house. The high tin ceiling, natural wood floor, old time merchandise shelves, antiques displays, historic photos, and the heat from the old wood stove help the store live up to its motto –
THE HISTORIC RAILROAD TOWN’S TRADITIONAL HARDWARE STORE