8 THE QUEENS COURIER • SURVIVING AND THRIVING • FEBRUARY 1, 2018 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Surviving and Thriving Small businesses in Queens
Astoria hardware store adapts to change & city regs
BY ANGELA MATUA
email@example.com / @angelamatua
Cliff Straus has been working at his
family’s hardware store since he was 4
Straus Paint & Hardware Co. opened
at 28-09 Steinway St. in Astoria in 1930.
Th ough Straus’ great-grandfather opened
the shop, he didn’t stay for long.
“Th e paint fumes got to him, so he gave
it to his son,” Straus said.
Charles and Evelyn Straus, Cliff ’s grandparents,
ran the store for many years, and
the younger Straus has stuck around to
witness many changes. He began working
at Straus Paint & Hardware Co. in
the 1960s and offi cially took over for his
father, Gary, a few years ago.
“Back then, you used to have to mix
lead and turpentine to actually make the
paint,” he said.
Th e store is open seven days a week
and Straus stocks up on a large variety of
tools and parts. Shoppers can fi nd everything
from paint to light bulbs and radiator
valves. Th e hardware store has attracted
a good number of regulars, including
neighboring building supers, due to
Th ough there are other hardware
stores in the neighborhood and a Home
Depot on 25th Avenue, the building
was purchased by Charles Straus in the
’40s, which allows the family to stay in
business. His parents lived in an apartment
unit upstairs for many years, he
“We would’ve been long gone if we
didn’t own the building,” Straus said.
“Th is business wouldn’t survive. It just
doesn’t make that kind of money. It would
be some sort of restaurant or something.”
Th e key to his success also lies in the
variety of items that customers can purchase
at the hardware store. Carrying
an assortment of supplies allows him
to compete with larger hardware stores,
“Plumbing, electrical, cleaning, general
hardware, sundries, paint, anything that
goes on in an apartment we try to cover,”
Straus added that many of the surrounding
apartment buildings in the area
were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s,
which require constant maintenance.
“Th e buildings around here that were
built in the ’30s for the factory workers,
a lot of them were built on the cheap,” he
said. “Th at keeps us in business.”
Th ough many local businesses have
worked on creating a strong presence
online, Straus said that this is not required
for a hardware store.
“People come mostly for what they
need,” he said. “Th is isn’t a window shopping
kind of thing. If you need something,
something’s going wrong — a leaky faucet,
squeaky door, rattling window. I just
don’t think that an online presence is
He has had to shift his purchasing habits.
Straus receives inventory shipments
almost every day, mostly from local suppliers.
But now, he orders most of his
items online instead of purchasing them
Th e salesmen were “guys in overcoats
and hats, smoking cigars and carrying
two books full of samples,” he said. “You
don’t see those guys anymore.”
Th ough purchasing inventory can get
expensive, Straus said he is lucky because
most of the items are non-perishable. He
also has to deal with inspections from several
city agencies such as the Department
of Buildings, the Fire Department and
Department of Sanitation.
“New York City is very effi cient at collecting
fi nes,” he said. “Whether it’s for
an aerosol can, storage of fl ammable liquids,
you have to comply to everything.
Mostly it’s for safety and we’re all for that.
It’s nice that you’re not allowed to smoke
in here anymore.”
A steady stream of customers walked
through the doors of Straus Paint &
Hardware Co. on a Friday aft ernoon.
Some people needed to have their keys
copied, while others looked for specifi c
parts like dremel blades.
Straus said that one of his favorite
aspects of running a business in Queens
is the variety of languages he hears customers
speaking. An Italian woman who
asked to have her keys copied reminisced
about how long she’s been a customer.
“Don’t ask me how long I’ve been here,”
Straus said jokingly.
Straus is the only member of his family
who still lives in Queens and said he
has not “given much thought” to what his
plans are for the future of the store.
“I hope to have the basement cleaned
up, I’m shooting for the end of this year,”
he said. “We have dust down there from
the Truman administration.”
He does acknowledge that he’ll be the
last Straus working at Straus Paint &
“I think once we’re gone, nobody’s
opening new hardware stores,” he said.
“Th at’s true for many businesses.”
Photos by Angela Matua/QNS
Cliff Straus’ family has run Straus Paint & Hardware Co. in Astoria since 1930.
Th is is the latest installment of an open-ended series in Th e Queens Courier and
on QNS about small businesses across Queens. Th e goal is to highlight mom-and-pop
shops and their history, as well as their successes despite facing competition from bigger,
well-known retailers; and the challenges they face in the current economic environment.
If you’re a Queens small business owner and interested in speaking with our editorial
staff about your successes and challenges, call 718-224-5863, ext. 204, or email
BIG GAME SPECIALS
With the purchase of glasses,
contact lens e l.
DESIGNER FRAMES PLUS FREE 2ND PAIR
Includes EYE EXAM Frames & Lenses
* $200 minimum purchase on first pair of designer frames. Second pair frame from select
group with clear plastic, single vision lenses +/-4 sph., 2 cyl.
Not valid with any other offers,