The result is a continued trade in Mayfair’s basic hardware products, fine-tuned to meet the needs of people who live in older homes in the Mayfair and Caswell Hill neighborhoods that flank the store on the north and south. Mayfair doesn’t carry any plastic plumbing pipes, for instance, ‘it’s all the old galvanized stuff’.
But those are needful things. Mayfair is also the kind of place where you can drop in, browse around and almost always find things that surprise, delight or amuse: Parcheesi games, Mother Goose figurines, horses with clocks in their stomachs, old-fashioned washboards, knives that cut through shoes, pot-mending kits. . .
Thomas admits his buying decisions today are based more on personal curiosity than the likelihood any particular item will become a hot seller. Yet invariably, according to McHargue, things that tickle Thomas’ fancy have the same effect on his customers.
“We’ll say to him: ‘What are you bringing this stuff here for?’,” says McHargue. “But it’s amazing how it sells.”
Jean Wrightson, a Caswell Hill resident, has been coming to Mayfair for years. She spoke of a special trellis Thomas found for her and a home-improvement project that kept McHargue and another Mayfair employee named Leo Mareschal occupied at Wrightson’s house during every spare moment of an entire summer.
“If you want anything,” says Wrightson, “you come to Bruce’s.”