Bivens Hardware still going strong after more than 90 years

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — Bivens Hardcare has been serving the Pickens community since 1923.

The Greater Pickens Chamber of Commerce recently named Bivens its Member of the Month for December.

The business has been a mainstay on Main Street in Pickens for more than 90 years, according to Heath Fields, who operates the business with his uncle, Robert Bobo.

The business began in 1923 and has been in the family for five generations.

bivensregisterThe business’ earliest incarnation was as Heath, Bruce, Morrow — a general store.

“They sold everything from wagons to dynamite,” Fields said. “The safe in the office still has Heath, Bruce, Morrow on it. It was so heavy they couldn’t move it, so they just rolled it across Main Street, was the story I’ve always been told.”

Fields’ great-great-grandfather, T.L. Bivens, purchased the general store, moved it across Main Street and renamed it Bivens Hardware Company. T.L.’s son, Hank, took over the business.

Rocky Nimmons/Courier
Customers enjoy seeing the antique cash register still in use at Bivens Hardware, according to co-owner Robert Bobo.

When Hank retired, he turned the business over to his son-in-law, Don Bobo, Fields’ grandfather.

Don retired about 18 months ago.

“Back in the day, they were everything,” Fields said. “Planters, horse-drawn carriages, everything you’d need to hook up the mules. Now it’s more general hardware. We try to have a lot of the stuff that’s harder to find in other places — keep all that stuff in stock.”

The store offers a good selection of plumbing supplies, he said.

When chamber director Kim Smagala was opening her business, she discovered a leak in her building late one night.

When Fields’ wife, Lauren, saw a Facebook message about the leak, she told her husband

“(Fields) came over and opened the store, and we got plumbing supplies to fix that leak that was happening in the middle of the night,” Smagala said. “Hardware stores don’t do for you very often.”


Rocky Nimmons/Courier
Bivens Hardware prides itself on customer service and offering unique items that may be hard to find at big-box stores.

Fields recalled going over to his grandfather’s house on Sundays when customers would call.

“Maybe not every Sunday, but more often than not, somebody would call and either Robert or Don would leave and go open the store,” he said. “It was mainly for emergencies, like if their well pump went down or they had a flood in their basement. We were the only store in town back then. We don’t have as many calls as we used to.”

Fields’ family encouraged him to go to college — particularly his grandfather.

“He wanted me to go be a vet and take care of his cows,” Fields recalled, laughing. “That didn’t pan out.”

Fields pursued a career in construction until that industry’s downturn in 2008.

His family asked him to come work in the store for a few days, eventually going full-time.

“It’s a good job,” Fields said. “I enjoy helping the people.”

bivensquoteFields believes the store’s customer service is what sets it apart from others.

“Some people aren’t used to it,” Fields said. “They don’t want you standing over them — they’re not used to it. But once they figure out what you’re doing, they’re grateful for it.”

Growing up, he saw Robert and Don and how they dealt with customers.

“They’d go greet a customer: ‘What can I get for you?’, go get it, ‘What else?’,” Fields said. “They’d never leave that customer.”

That tradition continues today.

“You deal with the same person from when you’re greeted to when you check out,” Fields said. “I can’t think of anywhere else that does that.”

The store offers a good selection of products for its customers. It also offers flexibility, something that a big-box store may not be able to provide.

bivensinset2r“We’ve got nails by the pound,” Fields said. “You can get literally half a dozen of these and half a dozen of these, and you don’t have to buy boxes. All my nuts, bolts and screws, we try to sell individually, so you can literally buy what you need and not five boxes that you get two bolts out of.”

The store cuts pipe by the foot. “I’ll sell you 6 inches or 60 feet, whatever you want,” Fields said. “There’s not many still doing that.”

Rocky Nimmons/Courier
Longtime Bivens Hardware employee Gabby Hayes holds a handful of loose nails before placing them into a bag. The store is one of few that still offer nails by the pound rather than by the box.

The store repairs windows and screens as well.

“That’s something that makes us different,” Fields said.

If they don’t have an item on hand at the moment, it’s no problem.

“If you can wait a few days, I can usually get it in there for you,” Fields said. “I don’t mind ordering stuff for people.”

He said the look of the store hasn’t changed much over the years.

“Around us, there’s been a lot of change,” Fields said. “There’s always new stuff coming out, but people tell us it’s like walking into a museum. Still the same wood floors, that tin-stamped ceiling.

“Sometimes I laugh and tell Robert I feel more like I work in a history museum than a hardware store.” Out-of-towners often come in just to take pictures, he said.

“It’s charming,” Smagala said. “They think they’re stepping back into Mayberry. The best thing about Pickens is it’s so quaint. It has its charm. We want to preserve that charm. Bivens is the essence of a small-town community that’s not too big for its britches.”

bivensinset3lRocky Nimmons/Courier
Bivens Hardware co-owner Robert Bobo places bolts into the antique cabinet where they are held in the store.

Bivens’ hours are 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to “4-ish” on Saturdays, Fields said.

“If it’s getting close to 4, call before you come in to town,” Fields said with a smile.

The business is closed on Sundays.

“I think Bivens is going to be around for a long time,” Smagala said.