‘I Want To Help My City’: How Dick’s Hardware Calculates What Downtowners Need

Dani Yamin just got her master’s degree in theoretical and applied mathematics. “Not exactly hardware-related,” she laughed when speaking over the phone to the Downtown Alliance. 

Shaul Yamin, Dani’s father, emigrated from Israel in 1980 and took over running Dick’s Cut Rate Hardware (9 Gold Street) from a cousin. For years, the two-storey shop has provided home-repair provisions to Lower Manhattan when things are normal. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, normalcy is on hiatus. “I just finished school,” Yamin said, “and then I came back because of this situation.” 

But Yamin is no stranger to the nuts and bolts of running a brick-and-mortar business (“I’ve been working here my whole life, I grew up here”), and for all her hard work, Shaul made his daughter vice president of the retail operation. 

During the pandemic, Dani and Shaul decided it made good sense to expand inventory levels on a few high-demand items to better serve the neighborhood, e.g. coordinating shipments of toilet paper, gloves and masks. And there’s always a need for other essentials: “A lot of people are actually getting, like, fill valves — a lot of toilets are breaking — that was a big thing,” Yamin said. 

“In the beginning,” she continued, “a lot of people were saying, Why would you need to be open? Why is a hardware store essential? Everyone is washing their hands — how do you think people wash their hands? Someone is fixing sinks.” 

It’s not just coronavirus supplies the neighborhood’s coming for. “A surprising number of people are doing household projects,” Yamin said. “Some people in the hardware community are frustrated because it puts employees and customers at risk to have more people come in just for home projects. But at the same time, for people who are stuck at home and stressed, home projects are a positive thing to focus on.” The shop also carries seeds and potting soil for aspiring green thumbs to grow herbs, vegetables and flowers. “A lot of people are getting that type of thing.”

It turns out the eclectic inventory goes well with the shop’s varied and quirky history, which is one of the great things about small, family-run businesses. One might wonder, for example, about the store’s namesake: Who is Dick?

“There was a great-great cousin on my mother’s side named Nathan,” Yamin explained. “He worked for a Dick who owned the hardware store. Nathan was the one who was actually in the store all the time, so everybody called him ‘Dick’ because it was Dick’s Hardware. And he never corrected anybody.” When Nathan had the opportunity to open a store of his own, he knew what to call it: Dick’s Hardware. “It didn’t make sense to call it ‘Nathan’s Hardware.’ But there’s no one related to my dad whatsoever named ‘Dick.’” 

Dick’s Hardware is still open seven days a week. As long as she’s healthy, Yamin is happy to work in the shop: “I want to help my city. I’m a New Yorker. You’ve got to help people. And if there’s something I can do, I feel lucky to be able to.”