As Ann Arbor grew, stores that once offered a variety of general merchandise began to specialize in groceries, dry goods, or hardware. In 1878 Christian Eberbach took over Widenmann and Schuh’s store and turned it into the largest of downtown’s many hardware businesses. He sold supplies to carpenters, painters, plasterers, and plumbers. On Saturdays farmers loaded their wagons with cowbells, pitchforks, axes, and machinery parts. Hardware stores also installed and repaired furnaces, roofs, gutters, and even locks.
Eberbach’s clerk, John Fischer, took over the business in 1892. As Fischer Hardware, the store moved to Washington Street and Fifth Avenue in 1937 where it lasted into the 1970s. Downtown’s last hardware store was Schlenker’s on West Liberty. It specialized in tinware and provided contractors and loyal customers with hard-to-find items. After more than a century in business, it closed in 1999.