Lake Dallas shares several common denominators with other Texas time-warp towns, but the most prominent one is the prevalence of old buildings. Most have a minimum of five layers of paint. Each new color is brighter than its predecessor to distract from the chips and cracks running through the once-upon-a-time smooth wood.
Use Lake Dallas Hardware (Do It Best) as an illustration. A bold, forward-moving coating of truly bright, bright green, clipped off at all the edges by crisp, spotless white. A front porch running the length of the building. Benches and wheelbarrows and garden carts outside, waiting for a permanent home. Faded stickers on the windows. They’re all elements of the store’s personality.
Lake Dallas Hardware launched as a simple general store, sort of like the old farmer’s mercantile. Then, as more coats of fresh paint were added, it morphed into a hardware store. Norman Beaty began filling out his timecard as an employee when he was just 16 years old. He met his wife Marilyn there when he was 17 and required parental consent when they decided to get married because they were still so young.
Norman aged in place at Lake Dallas Hardware, standing solid through name changes, through one set of difficult owners, through a couple of recessions, and one armed robbery with the barrel of a Glock punched into the back of his neck as he opened the safe. He bloomed as the store’s centerpiece. He trained current owners, Bill and Dru McDonald, as well as their sons Curtis and Troy. He’s been there nearly five decades, so long that a lot of the town’s folks forget about all the name changes and just say they’re going to “Norman’s place.”
“A lot of things have changed over the past 50 years,” said Norman, “and a lot of things haven’t. We still sell nails and screws by the pound. We’ve added a few services such as sharpening chain saws and repairing/making screens.
“Mr. and Mrs. McDonald are up in years, but they still come into the store a few hours every week. Bill makes most of the decisions, and the rest of us respect that. That’s why we all call him the Boss Man. There have been four family generations of McDonalds working here.
“We’re still open seven days a week because Bill feels that’s part of giving quality customer service. Of course, our winter hours are shorter; closing at 6:00 p.m. instead of 6:30! There was a time when we knew every face coming through that door. That’s changed some in the past five years, especially with the Little Elm Bridge. It’s made it a lot easier to get here and has increased our volume of business as well as the amount of customer traffic. We may not know you the first time you come in but just give us a couple of times to wait on you. We’ll call you by name the third time you’re here.”
Does it bother the McDonald clan that Norman’s name is the one most frequently connected with Lake Dallas Hardware? No, it doesn’t. Norman is part of the family and, besides, he’s the best business card they could have. His word is golden. His work ethic is legendary. And he can take you straight to the bin holding the tiniest screw in the store.
Just ask for Norman if you want the full-flavor experience of Lake Dallas Hardware.
photos courtesy of Diane Ciarloni