Downtown Mt. Shasta’s Oldest Family Business
● By Megan Peterson
The Nuts and Bolts
By Megan Peterson
Photos by Taryn Burkleo and historical photos courtesy of Bill Ramshaw
AS THE LONGEST running family-owned business in Mount Shasta, Ramshaw’s Ace Hardware has been serving the community from its same downtown location for 75 years. “With hardware stores, when the economy is doing well, people are building and growing. When the economy is struggling a bit, people are fixing, so hardware stores are always kind of a necessity for communities,” explains Bill Ramshaw, whose grandparents, Harold and Bea Ramshaw, founded the store back on August 6, 1945 – the same day, Ramshaw notes, “the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.”
But history and hardware stores go hand in hand, their quotidian spaces having long shaped their communities – especially in rural America. Their roots were planted with the frontier trading post as it evolved to the general store, then blossomed into “hardware” in the early 20th century as proprietors dispensed with the “soft” wares like textiles and food. These days, in an age of online shopping and disposable gadgets, there’s something to be said for a stick-and-mortar experience that delivers eye contact and a do-it-yourself ethos.
“The thing about hardware is that you’re always helping people. You’re helping them figure out their projects, you’re helping them fix their faucet. It’s very satisfying.”
A lifelong resident of Mount Shasta, Ramshaw has seen it evolve from a mill town to what he describes as more of a “tourist destination.” He explains that while the transformation has reflected some changes in the store’s inventory, the philosophy has remained the same since day one: serve the community. “We have a strong connection with our community, our customers and our employees, who we basically see as our extended family. It’s kind of funny, but you can walk around Mount Shasta and if you talk to 10 people who are long-time citizens, at least a couple of them have probably worked at the store at one time or another or have a family member who has.” In fact, one of Ramshaw’s employees, Norm, has been working at the hardware store since 1968 – back when Ramshaw’s father, Eldon, still ran it. “If you ask anyone in town about hardware and Norm, it will put a smile on their face. He knows more than anyone around here.
As a young man, Ramshaw always knew he wanted to run the store. “I saw where my father made a nice life for himself. You work hard, but you get good returns and there are a lot of rewards other than money.” Whether his own children will be the next generation to take over, Ramshaw doesn’t know. “We want our kids to follow their dreams rather than pushing our dreams onto them. But I have a nephew working for me right now, so you never know.”
For now, Ramshaw is content knowing some of the store’s most lasting impacts go far deeper than the nuts and bolts needed for physical repairs. He recalls the story of one former employee who returned several years later to thank Ramshaw for having given her a job when she lacked skill and confidence. “She came up to me and said, ‘Thank you. I just bought a house and that’s because you always believed in me.’ That’s pretty fulfilling, you know?” •
Ramshaw Ace Hardware
328 N. Mount Shasta Blvd., Mount Shasta
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 8am-6pm; Sunday, 9am-4pm
Megan Peterson is a Chico native who lives in Etna. For nearly two decades she’s written, produced and pitched content for a variety of television networks, including the Travel Channel, National Geographic and Discovery. She works at Discover Siskiyou and considers Siskiyou her muse.