Bill Carroll has fond memories of now-closed Shelton store

Bill Carroll said while his home improvement store may have closed forever, he will always have fond memories of the business started by his father in the family garage 60 years ago.

“We had a lot of good and loyal customers through the years, as well as lots of good help at the store,” he said of Carroll’s Home Improvement Centre in downtown Shelton.

“I want to thank people very much,” he said of those who patronized Carroll’s during the past six decades. “They’re a fine bunch of people.”

He ran Carroll’s Home Improvement Centre from the mid-1970s until 1998, when he had a stroke and began a multi-year transition to turn over the operation to longtime store employee Kenneth Wasko.

'It's a heart-breaker'

About two weeks ago, all the inventory was removed and the combined hardware, appliance and hardware store on Howe Avenue closed.

For many local residents, Carroll’s had been a business landmark — with its extensive windows in front and large stand-alone sign near Hill Street.

Carroll said he’s disappointed in what happened after he was no longer involved. “The business went down the toilet,” he said. “It’s a heart-breaker.”

He still owns the 0.6-acre parcel on Howe Avenue, which is on the market to be sold or leased.

He said several people have shown interest in the property, which includes an 8,400-square-foot building. “There are many possible applications, such as other retail, automotive or even a restaurant,” Carroll said.

Was the third location

Carroll’s father — also named Bill and now deceased — had started the business in the family’s home garage in Derby in 1954.

It then moved to its first location on Howe Avenue, in the north part of downtown Shelton, before a new location opened at 320 Howe Avenue in the southern part of the central business district.

Carroll took over running the store from his father in 1975.

He said operating a hardware store is more than a full-time job, and building a business can’t be done with “a time-clock mentality.”

While the owner, he said, he would often visit as many as a half-dozen homes a day on service calls.

He dealt with 50 to 60 vendors and formed relationships with companies such as Do It Best, Ace Hardware and Connecticut Hardware.

Health issues presented challenge

Then he had the stroke. “It came out of nowhere and hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Carroll, who has lived in Shelton since the 1970s.

His wife, Nancy, helped oversee the store as a plan was put in place to turn over the day-to-day operations to a longtime employee.

Carroll said the recent recession impacted the store, but he downplayed the competitive effect of having big-box stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart opening in nearby locations.

“Their service level is terrible compared to ours,” he said. “We offered the kind of service they couldn’t.”

If his health was better, Carroll said, he’d still be operating the local home improvement store. “I wish it was still going,” he said. “And if I was in good health, I’d still be there.”