110-year-old former hardware store to be demolished
July 10, 2013
MACOMB TOWNSHIP — When Shelley Henshaw was a kid spending countless hours roaming around her family’s hardware store, she developed some unusual skills, such as the ability to reach into a bucket full of nails and pull out exactly one pound.
“They sold such grand and glorious things in there,” said Henshaw, referring to Stier’s Hardware at 22 Mile and Romeo Plank roads, which her family owned and operated for more than a century. “We all lived and worked there, so as kids, it became our playground. Everyone in my family grew up in that building.”
But now the story of Stier’s Hardware is about to reach its final chapter. The dilapidated 110-year-old building is scheduled to be torn down within the next few weeks, according to Dan Fairless, building official for Macomb Township. The original deadline for the court-ordered demolition was supposed to be June 28, he noted, but things have been unfolding a little slower than expected.
“We are communicating with the property owners and their legal counsel,” Fairless said on July 8. “We believe that they are working with us in an acceptable manner, so we should have this all figured out by the end of the week.”
Stier’s Hardware closed for business a few years ago and was declared unsafe for human occupancy in February 2012. According to the Macomb County Treasurer’s Office, the store is a tax-delinquent property that still owes $2,306.88 on its 2011 taxes and $1,819.65 on its 2012 taxes.
Fairless explained that because the owners did not follow a township order to demolish the building, township officials had to file a lawsuit and take them to court. A Macomb County Circuit Court judge ruled in the township’s favor earlier this year and ordered that the building be torn down.
The current owner of the store — Jeffrey Stier, Henshaw’s brother — could not be reached for comment. Family members described Stier as a recluse and said that he had distanced himself from the rest of the family. Henshaw pointed out that she has not seen her brother in about 20 years.
“Jeffrey’s talent was always as a mechanic for small equipment,” she said, “but he never really had a good handle on the business side of things. I think that when you combine that with the bad economy and all the big box stores coming in, it really had a negative impact on the business. I understand that Jeffrey also got really sick near the end.”
Henshaw’s great-great-grandfather, George Stier, moved the family to Macomb Township in 1857. At that time, the area was known to locals as Waldenburg and was populated mostly by immigrant German farmers. George Stier purchased about 40 acres of farmland near what is now 22 Mile and Romeo Plank roads, a crossroads that acted as the business center of Waldenburg.
In 1903, Henshaw’s great-grandfather Louis Stier, opened Stier’s Hardware in a former post office building located at the southeast corner of the intersection. The business would later be passed down to her grandfather, William Stier; her father, Carl Stier; and finally to Jeffrey Stier.
Henshaw, 68, of Almont, noted that Stier’s Hardware always made an effort to give its customers what they wanted. Her parents stocked its shelves with “everything you would find at an old-fashioned general store,” moving beyond typical hardware items to include everything from toys to car parts to pottery. Years later, Jeffrey Stier began incorporating repair work for lawnmowers and other yard equipment.
The Waldenburg name still survives at the Waldenburg Tavern, located adjacent to Stier’s Hardware. Henshaw pointed out that the tavern used to be situated on the first floor of the building that now houses Mario’s Corner Market on the northwest corner, while a popular dance hall made its home on the second floor.
“When I was little, the music from that dance hall always helped put me to sleep on Saturday nights,” Henshaw said. “It was my lullaby.”
While that building still stands today, Stier’s Hardware is about to face its swan song. On June 26, the Macomb Township Board of Trustees authorized the Building Department to hire a contractor to perform the demolition work if the property owners refuse to do it themselves.
“We can go in and demolish it if they are being uncooperative,” Fairless said. “We don’t want to have to do that, so we only will if we believe that they’re dragging their feet.”
He added that the electrical and gas companies have already given the township clearance to demolish the building. However, they are still waiting to receive word from the Macomb County Health Department, which is needed because the store uses well water and septic sewage, since it is not hooked up to the township’s water and sewer system.
Once the building is torn down, it will also clear the way for some future construction work. According to Bob Hoepfner, director of the Macomb County Department of Roads, the department has secured a federal highway grant to widen Romeo Plank to five lanes between 21 1/2 Mile Road and 22 1/2 Mile Road. This project will serve as a continuation of the expansion of Romeo Plank between Hall Road and 21 1/2 Mile Road that occurred several years ago.
“That intersection has very narrow lanes and has problems with congestion,” Hoepfner said. “It actually operates fairly well and has very few reported accidents, but it definitely needs to be widened, and we will address that in 2017.”
For now, though, the intersection is about to look a whole lot emptier following the removal of one of the township’s most historic buildings. Henshaw said she understands the need to demolish it, but she still wishes that Stier’s Hardware could have somehow been salvaged.
“We’re all in mourning over this loss; it’s a really tough thing to say goodbye to,” she said. “That store was like home for four generations of my family, and beyond that, it was a gathering place at the center of that small Waldenburg community. So this wasn’t just a business for us — it was much more than that.”
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