In 1921 – during the beginning of prohibition, the reign of Jack Dempsey, the careers of Babe Ruth and Enrico Caruso – Charlie Tarzian married Sophie Back, and his brother Marty opened Tarzian Brothers Hardware on Seventh Avenue in the Park Slope Community, Brooklyn, New York.
The Tarzian Brothers recognized the neighborhood as one with great potential in its diversity; the upper and middle class on the east side of Seventh Avenue and the working class on the west side. The brothers had apprenticed with their uncle whose flourishing business on Fulton Street served the brownstone neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton-Hill, and Fort Green. Marty, the older of two was somewhat of a local celebrity. Before the war he had fought in boxing’s bantam weight division, and known as “Kid Taylor” challenged the champion. Unfortunately before the bout could be arranged, he joined the army and ultimately was wounded in France in 1918. Two years after Armistice, with a thousand dollars between them, they had a grand opening sale featuring products of the times priced none higher than 99 cents. Included were irons, coal skuttles, rug whips and the like. They joined the other established stores on Seventh Avenue, which included green grocers, butchers, bakeries, druggists, florists, bars, shoe repair shops, upholstery shops, ice cream parlors, furriers, and no more than six restaurants.
The store remained at 203 7th Avenue located just a few doors south of its present location until 1936. The brothers then moved to a newly renovated store at 193 7th Avenue. Ironically, though there were still connected by co-existing in the same location, they had literally parted company. In fact they could not agree on much of anything.
A Business Grows
Marty took over his prime interests, which were sales and repairs of large and small appliances, and Charlie occupied the back of the new store and carried on with the hardware, housewares, and paint lines. Charlie formed a new corporation – Tarzian Hardware – and Marty kept the old name – Tarzian Brothers. Sophie hired a sitter to watch her children Ethelyn and Harry, and joined with her husband Charlie in his struggle to keep their business afloat. It took the onset of World War II and the threat of air raids to turn their fortunes around. The city imposed strict rules on building owners to combat fires that might be induced by air raids and, due to shortages, created a sellers’ market for the required supplies.
Marty moved across the street in 1947, and Charlie and Sophie were finally able to expand as their business was growing. In 1954, the couple’s son Harry joined the business after graduating from college and serving in the army during the Korean War. Like so many sons he was reluctant to work for his father, but Charlie became ill and unable to work. Harry renovated the store in 1956, and expanded into the adjoining building in 1972.
Changing With The Neighborhood
In the early 80’s Harry decided to leave the hardware store and fulfill a lifelong dream. With his second wife Paula he took an extended leave of absence and traveled to Europe aboard their Sailboat “Aeolus”. The store remained under absentee management until 1992 when the couple returned to work full time, at which point Paula began managing the store. That same year Tarzian Hardware expanded again and created the lawn and garden department. Her son, John (Harry’s step-son), began working in the store in 1996. In 2000, Tarzian expanded its housewares into the second half of 195 7th Avenue, giving it the footprint it has today. In 2002, John left the store to serve his country in Iraq, and did not return to working at the store until 2005. In 2008 the store went through another renovation and became a Benjamin Moore signature store. The following year, John took over full time management from Paula, at which point the store went through a full remerchandising. Tarzian Hardware began selling and installing Levolor custom blinds in 2010, and now in 2011 Tarzian Hardware is entering the commercial sales market. John is now looking forward to further improving Tarzian Hardware as it reaches its centennial.