The Problem with Working in the City

Most of the jobs I do are actually in the suburbs, or close enough that we’ll count it as suburbia.

When I get jobs in the actual downtown city area, I always run into a problem. Parts and materials. That is, there’s nowhere to buy parts or materials.

Mall lights

Lovely city mall decorations

Sometimes you know the parts and materials that you will need before even heading to a job site. But sometimes when you show up, surprise!, you need some drywall mud. And you don’t have any drywall mud.

That’s not a problem in suburbia. You just hop in the truck and head to the nearest of a million hardware stores.

But in the city – when was the last time you were in the ritzy shopping district, corporate building maze, or condo hive of a city and found a hardware store? Exactly, never.

Anytime I do work in the city and need to leave the site to buy materials, like drywall mud last week, it sucks. It’s a long drive out to find a hardware store, while the clock is ticking and the client wants the work finished!

I eventually got the drywall mud last week and got back to the yuppie, upscale shopping mall in the city, but man, it took forever.

Get some hardware stores, cities!


The Problem with Working in the City — 20 Comments

    • That’s probably true; and with so many apartments and rented spaces, maybe most people just hire contractors to fix things so they don’t even need any tools or materials.

    • Smaller cities really seem to have it made. Hardware stores and grocery stores are around, and other stuff to do because they’re cities but they’re not so big and crazy that traffic sucks and hardware stores are hard to find!

  1. Hmm… That’s an interesting observation.

    Here in lovely uptown Phoenix, it’s true that much of the commerce has followed the white flight out to the suburbs. The best shopping venues, as you might expect, follow the money.

    Meanwhile, where real estate has turned commercial, the price is too high for stores that sell anything very practical — a hardware store, a car repair shop (one that’s not ripping off its customers, that is), or a gas station can’t afford the rent or mortgage. So yeah…in downtown Phoenix you’ll have to drive a ways for supplies and even groceries; in uptown Phoenix, the now fading home of the city’s doctor’s and lawyers, you’ll do the same to get to a grocery store where you feel safe in the parking lot, to a department store, or to a Home Depot.

    Luckily for us, though, thanks to the right-to-work laws the majority of Phoenicians are lower-middle-class or working poor. This means the real estate within the Phoenix city limits (NOT including wealthy suburbs like Scottsdale and Goodyear) is a crazy quilt of very affluent enclaves side-by-side with aging middle-class neighborhoods set in a sea of blight. So even in the central part of the city, there’ll be some area not too far away with an Ace or a TruValue.
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  2. When I think city I think of people renting the place where they live, or if they do own it they have enough money to pay someone else do the work. Renters and people who pay contractors don’t really have a need for hardware stores.
    In suburbia there are more homeowners so the need for the stores goes up.
    Another thought is that land is at a premium and grocery/hardware stores like home depot (not ace or aco) require a lot more room and thus it’s not as cost effective for them.
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  3. I think parking would be really hard. How could you load up a stack of lumber or drywall in downtown? Downtowns tend to cater to tourists or convention type travelers too. I also thing DIY people tend to live more outside of town, so the ones in downtown are more artsy fartsy and probably wouldn’t frequent a hardware store. I’ve never lived downtown in any city, so that’s just my probably poor generalization.
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  4. Funny you mention that. I was working with my BIL a few years ago (he’s an electrician). We were in a very high dollar part of town (not down town, but not the burbs either). He pulled in to this little shopping center that looked like it had a bunch of foo-foo shops. Turns out there was a hardware store…priced for the wealthy too! 😉
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