When an electrical fire in February 2022 forced Harvey’s Hardware to shutter, it left a void not only in the town’s commercial center, but also in the hearts of countless residents. Since then, the big question has been: What could possibly replace it?
“It will be something the community will like,” said Adam Conviser, principal of Conviser Property Group, Inc. (CPG) and broker for the property. Although it’s premature for a real update, Conviser said they may be able to make an announcement in the coming weeks.
Needham economic development manager Amy Haelsen said, “It’s challenging for independent small businesses to open up a brick-and-mortar store. Even pre pandemic, the retail shops were feeling the hit from online sales.”
Residents have shared many suggestions for what they would like to see occupy that corner spot. “The hope is for something really great,” said Haelsen. “We’ve heard bookshop, café, boutique. I think people are seeking another gathering spot.”
She also knows what residents almost unanimously do not want for that space: another bank.
Conviser can confirm: “It won’t be a bank.”
“I understand why they feel that way,” said Haelsen. But the town can’t regulate the types of businesses that move in as long as the owners follow the bylaws. The decision is ultimately up to the building landlords, she said, which in this case are Jeffrey and Gary Katz, sons of the late founder Harvey Katz. As to whether Harvey’s could be revived as a hardware store, new square footage and parking regulations make that location less attractive today.
“There is a lease out for the majority of the hard corner,” Conviser said. The remaining space consists of about 1,500 square feet and is still available.
Harvey’s was a cornerstone of Needham life for nearly 60 years. Generations of Needhamites grew up heading there with their parents to get supplies, and then again with their own children. The iconic store, reminiscent of general stores of yore, was renowned far beyond Needham’s borders. Harvey’s was famous for its extensive selection of goods, from the commonplace to the obscure, as well as the staff’s ability to find whatever customers needed even if customers themselves didn’t know what they needed.
Although there has been interest in the location, several factors have prevented a new business from moving forward with a lease. Haelsen said that the town had considered the space for a pop-up shop, something it had experience with in the past, but the cost to make the space fire code compliant would have been cost prohibitive for a three-month tenant.
There has been interest from a variety of businesses, including an arcade, retail shops and restaurants. But the site isn’t zoned for an arcade, and the startup cost for a restaurant if the space wasn’t one originally is hugely expensive, Haelsen said. “We knew that and crossed it off the list pretty early on.”
So the question of what’s to come may soon be answered.
For more information on Harvey’s, you can read a history of the family owned hardware store written by Gloria Greis, Executive Director of the Needham History Center & Museum.
This story was updated on June 1 at 10:08 a.m.