By Rachel Pritchett
NORTH KITSAP — Hardware Wholesale, 10-year-old mainstay in the construction industry, is closing, victim of the recession.
Keith Oleachea, who founded Hardware Wholesale with brother Bryan, was at the Foss Road store Wednesday. The mood in the office was one of defeat and sadness.
The dozen employees at the store in Poulsbo and a second store in Aberdeen will be out of work, joining more than 2,000 construction-related workers in Kitsap County who have lost their jobs since the 2007 height of the building boom. In the third quarter of 2007, there were 5,610 construction jobs in Kitsap County. That had shrunk to 3,405 by the third quarter of 2010, the latest quarter for which data is available, according to the Washington Department of Employment Security.
“Don’t know,” a very subdued Keith Oleachea said when asked about what he and his brother will do now.
Born in Aberdeen but spending much of their life in the Poulsbo area, the Oleachea brothers built Hardware Wholesale from the ground up. The two sites provides construction accessories — mostly related to concrete projects — to 390 contractors throughout the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas. Typical accessories might by rebar or tools to install concrete projects.
At the height of the building boom, they had 26 employees.
That, too, was the time they invested to expand the business. When the housing market collapse, they were left “dragging around a lot of debt” associated with the expansion. No bank now would take them on to refinance, Keith Oleachea said.
The company prided itself on competitive prices for contractors and also for service. It even held classes in Poulsbo for contractors on how to make concrete countertops, how to make stamped concrete walkways or how to correctly stain concrete. Keith Oleachea said Hardware Wholesale was the only company of its kind on the peninsulas. The company’s website said it was the No. 1 construction accessory supply and service company in the Northwest.
The siblings also appeared to foster a brotherhood among construction workers struggling now for a long time.
In March of this year, they set up a “Construction Survivor” project to help support struggling workers and their families, according to the Hardware Wholesale website.
“We are all in the industry together and when we think as a family, stay unified and work toward a common goal, we shall survive.” a statement on the site stated.
A fire sale of unsold equipment preceded the closing of the business this week.