A much loved hardware shop falls victim to underworld arson attack


    By Hazel Lekkas

    Down the street, not far away, a little hardware shop in Sunshine West, burned. Onlookers included neighbouring residents, many of whom are customers. Among the onlookers were my parents, Dimitrios and Helen, owners of the small business since 1980, and my brother Arthur, who joined our parents to sell hardware in his early 20s. 

    While the shock of the arson attack that started in the milk bar next door set in, memories made within the walls and stockyard of the shop escaped the heat and flames. 

    And the memories stretch as far back as 1960 to the late Charlie Agius who established the business and raised his family above the premises. As it turned out, I attended primary school with a granddaughter of Mr Agius. I have a fond memory of celebrating one of my childhood birthdays with her as my guest in the very kitchen her grandparents once broke bread in as a family. 

    Growing up on the premises since the age of one, my backyard was far from conventional. There was no grass to lay on, or a tree to climb. I was treated to a concrete jungle. 

    I climbed on bags of cement, wire mesh, and PVC pipes, and smelled kerosene and turpentine stored in metal tanks. I weaved in and out of delivery trucks and the cars of customers collecting their stock. I played with paintbrushes, nails, and screwdrivers. And despite all the hazards that come with being raised in a hardware shop, I never once injured myself. Arthur came along when I was 6 years old, and he joined me on our crusade. He wore electric blue gumboots and a Superman cape and together we fought to defend ourselves from the perils of our backyard. 

    As children, we witnessed the stoicism of our parents who battled through storm damage, burglaries, the early 1990s recession, and then some. Any struggle a small business might face, our parents fought it head on together. Along the way, they were joined by our late Uncle Paul (Apostolis) Palioudis, our father’s brother, who, with one amputated arm, managed the demands of assisting customers and even retrieved car keys locked in cars parked on Glengala Road. D & H Hardware was then joined by our cousin Tim, who between finishing secondary school and deciding on his career path, served customers with his warm smile. He went on to become a successful real estate agent. 

    During the pandemic, having become unemployed, I had the privilege of working alongside my parents and brother to serve the residents of the western suburbs as an essential service, and to (thankfully) keep my and many customers’ mental health in check. Some customers simply came by for a chat to feel less alone. The little hardware shop tied our community in a big way. D & H Hardware truly is a family owned and operated small local business. And here is the heartbreaking impact: my 70-year-old father who has opened the little shop’s doors to customers every single morning for the past 43 years, has not been able to bring himself to return to the charred remains of his empire. Being an innocent victim of crime is ever so cruel. 

    Of all the memories, it is the customers who became family and whose unwavering support through thick and thin has contributed to the success of the little hardware shop. We celebrated the business’s success with sausage sizzles and fizzy drinks long before the big green boxes put a snag on a hot plate, and customers were never asked to put their hand in their pocket. If you are one of the lucky ones to have received a cap (and calendar) over the years, it means you have been welcomed into the hardware shop’s family. And ‘everyone’ is welcome. I was fortunate to learn greetings in a number of languages thanks to the linguistic diversity that walked through the shop’s doors, with Maltese, Macedonian, Italian, and Turkish ‘hellos’ and ‘how are yous?’ rolling off my tongue with ease given the amount of practice I got. Who needs language learning audiobooks? And I never quite worked out how my father, in particular, managed to send customers with minimal to no English on their way with their hands full of hardware supplies. The language of hardware has no barrier. Google Translate has got nothing on the little hardware shop’s retailers. 

    Let’s not forget the fire’s impact on the hairdressing salon next door. While the damage is not as extensive, the new owner’s premises, only recently renovated, was just beginning to make its own memories at Glengala Village. I at the very least have a memory of taking my daughters to her salon for their and my haircuts ahead of their 2nd birthday earlier this year. Bitter-sweet, indeed. 

    The little hardware shop spanning seven decades was burned in just a few hours. Do not despair, as down the street, not far away, the little hardware shop will be brought back to life by the Sunshiners, and the fond memories will never fade. The fire damage is great, but the memories are greater. And there are more memories yet to be made. 

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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