Your local hardware store is now even more local


BY Joseph Rearick

It sounds like the beginning of a joke: A man wearing a snugly with a Pomeranian inside of it walks into a hardware store. But for the recently opened Tribeca Paints owner Andrew Scheman, it’s the beginning of a relationship founded on attentive service, expertise and a genuine care for the residents of his beloved neighborhood.

Seconds after greeting the man and his miniature pooch, he’s delivered him exactly what he wanted; an allergy filter that can be cut to size with scissors to cover almost any household vent. Never mind the fact that this customer had entered the store mistakenly requesting a rigid metal filter far too large for his needs. Afterwards, the two men chat for a few moments, animatedly recalling the Tribeca of 20 years ago. Then man and dog leave, surprised and pleased at the ease and friendliness of the encounter.

“See, that’s what hardware is,” said Scheman. “A customer comes in asking for something and it’s not exactly what they really need. And you’ve got to have the experience to help them get what they really want.”

Few can compare with Scheman in terms of experience, either as a hardware encyclopedia or a Tribeca resident. Indeed, a knack for the hardware business may just run in the Scheman’s blood. His great-grandfather opened a hardware store on 21st Street and 6th Ave. in the late 19th century and staffed it with his thirteen kids. Of that brood, four went on to own their own hardware businesses, including Scheman’s grandfather, who founded Scheman and Grant Hardware on 8th Ave. and 38th St. in 1921. Scheman worked in that store as a child and owns it today, having amassed an incredible degree of industry knowledge. But he’s always dreamed of opening a store in Tribeca, a neighborhood he discovered 25 years ago. His dream came true this May as he opened on the former site of Tribbles Home and Garden at 217 W. Broadway.

“I’ve lived here since college, and I don’t want to say it, because my wife will get angry with me, but I’ll be here until I’m in my coffin,” said Scheman, laughing. His record of service to the community demonstrates his attachment to the place; he’s been a manager, coach and administrator with the Downtown Little League and helped found the Downtown Community Center among other contributions. And he sees his new business as yet another means to help improve the neighborhood.

“My goal is to be a neighborhood store. Part of that is feeling like a neighbor is there,” he said of his warmth with customers, many of whom he knows well from the area. “If you’re going into a store and you’re expecting a level of service and professionalism as well as a smiling face, that’s what you get here. You’re going to get what you need and feel happy about what you did.”

Specifically targeting his store’s contents to Tribeca’s needs, Scheman has included “a good combination of high-end and everyday stuff” to make his store a single, helpful destination for those looking for anything from tools to window treatments. And his inventory is changing with the demand he sees. “We’ve left some room to understand and provide what the neighborhood needs,” he said. “A hardware store always has to evolve to meet what people need.”

One of Tribeca Paints’ recent evolutions is the creation of in-home shopping, which lets customers select products in the context of their own home. In the words of designer Bennie Millan, the in-home experience can make “certain aspects really pop,” easing a nerve-wracking process. Scheman’s also embracing the green trend, offering energy-saving options in a host of tools and treatments. In addition, Tribeca Paints will soon be able to provide its customer the opportunity to switch their energy to exclusively wind power-produced electricity.

“I think we’re going to become the go-to place for residents and designers who go out to shop with a mission,” said Scheman. “For people who know they can come here and get what they want, or we’ll get it from the other store.”

He stopped his train of thought to say good-bye to another customer, one he befriended with savvy plumbing advice.

“That’s why I wanted to do this,” he said with a smile. “The few people I don’t know in this neighborhood, I’m getting to know.”