It may seem grounding that among the fancy boutiques and bistros on Girard Avenue there is still a brick-front hardware store, but Bob Meanley, owner of Meanley and Son Hardware, knows it’s just plain necessary.
“Even in a wealthy community like La Jolla, when the toilet breaks you’ve got to fix it: We have things that people need,” he said recently.
Meanley and Son has had things that people need since opening its doors in December 1948, which makes the store exactly 60 years old this month.
Bob’s grandfather, Tom Meanley, started the business with his son, William A., and his wife Nackey, who was the daughter of EW Scripps.
In 1967, Bob’s mother Betty took over the helm until she passed it on to his brother, William C., 10 years later. Bob has run the store for about 20 years now.
Established as a true family business, Meanley and Son has also always been in the same spot, in the same building.
Bob said he thinks of the store as a dusty little place, but it’s actually both tidy and orderly, considering there are about 25,000 items in such a confined area. This is accomplished with the help of technology.
“For a funky, small hardware store, we’re very computerized,” he said.
What else has helped Meanley and Son last when other hardware stores in La Jolla have disappeared?
“There have been some really tenacious family members that just didn’t want to quit,” Bob answered.
Beyond perseverance, the family has fended off the growth of chain stores by joining cooperatives. As he explained, independent hardware stores can compete with the chains when 4,000 or 5,000 of them come together to purchase stock.
Meanley and Son has been a member of a co-op since 1967 and is currently a member of Ace Hardware.
But the bottom line, he said, is “our survival is dependent upon treating our customers well … Every long-term business in La Jolla knows that service is huge.”
Though Bob is the only member of the family involved with the hardware store today, he said that his son Christopher, who attends college in Oregon, “might get involved someday if he wants.”
As with the brick storefront, there’s an old-fashioned appeal to that, too. It would bring the business full circle, to literally being Meanley and Son again.