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By Carmen Ensinger
On May 16, 2022, Gary and Barb Dorsey celebrated 50 years of serving the Winchester community at Dorsey Hardware, located on the Winchester Square.
The couple opened the store on May 16, 1972 during a much different time in history – a time when a person could go uptown and get everything they needed without leaving town. A time before the big chain stores that ran the little mom and pop stores out of business.
Barb Dorsey, who Gary calls “the Boss” recalls how they first got into the business.
“When Gary got out of the Air Force, we were living in White Hall, and Gary’s good friend, Mark had a Western Auto store in White Hall and Gary decided he would like to have a store like it and so we started looking,” Barb Dorsey said. “Actually, Mark was talking about retiring, but the Greenfield store was an option and then there was this store. Both the White Hall store and the Greenfield store were both small and then this one came up and it was a lot bigger so we decided to go with Winchester.”
They were both entering into a new territory.
“It was scary and we didn’t know anything about running a business,” Dorsey said. “Western Auto sent Gary to two weeks of school and then we got set up and opened our store here in Winchester.”
Both Barb and Gary are natives of Greene County and Barb was employed by Kroger’s in White Hall when they decided to open the store.
“I kept my job down there for the first three years and we lived down there for about a year after we opened the store,” she said. “After that first year, we moved up to Winchester and so we have lived her almost 50 years.”
Dorsey said Western Auto was a wonderful company to work for.
“We were able to get everything we needed from them and they were very good to us,” she said. “Their main headquarters were in Kansas City and they had national merchandise shows twice a year and when Gary was in schooling he met a lot of new deals who we got to be friends with. They paid our way to all of these events and put us up in the finest hotels. We won a trip to Hawaii one year and another year a cruise to South America.”
Times were good in those days.
“Back then, we sold a lot of appliances and toys, especially during Christmas time,” Dorsey said. “We sold so many toys. It was nothing to have 25 or 30 bikes out on the floor and we started layaways the first of September. This was before Wal-Mart came around so these were the good old days.”
But, all good things must come to an end, and in 2003, Western Auto sold out and Dorsey’s went in with Sentry Hardware, who they had already had dealings with for some hardware already.
“Basically, our business now is mainly hardware and plumbing,” Dorsey said. “We don’t sell a lot of paint anymore, but we keep it on hand in case someone needs it.”
Western Auto was big on car parts, but you won’t find any of those these days for the simple reason that cars today are so sophisticated that the average Joe can’t work on their car in their garage anymore. But they can work on their lawn mowers and for this they can find plenty of parts. Or, if they don’t want to tackle the job themselves, they can bring it in to Gary to work on.
“We keep a lot of lawn mower parts on stock and if we don’t have it in stock, we can get it within the matter of a day,” Dorsey said. “I think Gary’s favorite thing to do is to work in the back on the lawn mowers. We do a lot of business – not just here in Winchester, but a lot from Greene County and other counties as well.”
There is another skill that Gary has that not many people offer anymore – screen repair.
“There was a fellow here in town who did both glass and screen repair and then he retired,” Dorsey said. “Gary picked up the screen repair, but decided not to do the glass. So, anytime anyone has a screen to be repaired, they bring it up to Gary. There isn’t a lot of people who do screen repair these days.”
For almost 40 years, one could have called the Dorsey’s the “Dynamic Duo”. Gary did all of the repairs and Barb kept the books. Then, in 2019, Barb had a fall that resulted in a brain bleed which resulted in several hospitalizations and ultimately her turning over her bookkeeping to their trusted long-time employee Julieanne Gauges.
Dorsey explained how she first started keeping the books.
“For the first five years we had the business, we had an accountant to do the books and someone to do the taxes,” she said. “So, when I got to a point where I was familiar with all the daily stuff, I started all of that, I started doing all the bookkeeping and billing, but I never would touch the taxes.”
But her role was much more than just bookkeeper.
“When you have a store like this, you do a little bit of everything,” she said. “You order merchandise, you put it out when it comes in, you clean the shelves, you scrub the floors, you do it all.”
During their week-long 50-year anniversary celebration, the Dorsey’s had the opportunity to visit with many long-time customers, many new customers and many friends they hadn’t seen in quite some time.
“The greatest part about this is seeing everyone and just talking about the good old days,” Dorsey said. “Most of the people who have been in come in regularly, but we have had a lot of people that come in from White Hall and Roodhouse area too. Gary does a lot of lawn mower work from people all over so we draw a lot from not just Winchester but from other areas as well.”
Gary Dorsey managed to say a few words, especially to thank his loyal customers.
“We have been very blessed over the years with our loyal customers, such as the nursing center, Marshall Chevrolet, the housing, the banks and all those who shop with us,” Gary Dorsey said. “Plus, all of the other businesses and organizations who have patronized us over the past 50 years. We appreciate each and every one of you.”
It is no secret that the Dorsey’s have been looking for someone to buy the business, but they also say they have no intention of leaving Winchester without a hardware store.
“We are very appreciative of everyone for supporting us for the past 50 years and we hope that we can have a few more years,” he said. “But we are looking for someone to buy the store from us so we can retire. But we want the store to keep on going. We plan to continue living here and we want a place to shop.”