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Mar 24, 2010 10:44 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Herrick Hardware manager celebrates 50 years on the job

Mar 24, 2010 10:44 AM

When Al Topping, the general manager of Herrick Hardware, reported to work last Friday, he tried to enter through the back door, just as he has done every workday for half a century. He was greeted by a “broken door” sign, instructing him to use the front entrance instead.

Mr. Topping, enduring an already harried morning, stomped his foot in frustration and circled the store to its Main Street entrance.

To his utter astonishment, his friends and work colleagues burst forth with balloons, ribbons, surprise wishes and a yellow-and-black painted message on the front window reading: “Al Topping 50 Years Herrick All-Star” in large capital letters.

Last Friday marked the 50th anniversary—it was one day shy, actually—of Mr. Topping’s employment with the Southampton Village hardware store, a mainstay of the village’s downtown business district for 141 years. Mr. Topping began working at the store on March 20, 1960, and has never looked back.

“I’ve been blessed to work with such good people,” Mr. Topping remarked amid the swarm of festivities, which included a life-size cardboard cutout of himself holding an ACE Hardware clipboard stating, “Anguila ... 42 days and counting,” which referred to his upcoming vacation with his wife, Janice Herbert, to the couple’s traditional vacation destination.

“Every day I have a new challenge,” he added. “That is why I keep going. I love it.”

Mr. Topping’s colleagues were brimming with enthusiasm about their golden anniversary colleague.

“You could not find a nicer manager if you tried,” commented Philip Foreman, a salesperson who described himself as the “lowest clerk on the totem pole.” Peter Grajewski, a fellow salesperson, who described himself as “second-lowest on the totem pole,” said that Mr. Topping could direct customers to within 6 inches of any specific items they might be trying to locate.

Mr. Topping cut the cake and mingled with the congratulatory crowds beneath a ceiling festooned with streamers and a silver “50” balloon.

As part of the Friday festivities, Noel Hare, the store owner, called from his vacation spot in Mexico to congratulate Mr. Topping and remark on the significant milestone of the anniversary.

“He knows more about Weber gas grills than anyone on the East Coast,” said a friend, Van Johnson of Coram, as he entered the store that morning, passing shelves brimming with Weber products.

Mr. Topping said he began working at Herrick Hardware in 1960 when, one day, he parked in front of the store on Main Street, and a longtime friend “came running out of the store and said, ‘Al, you have to work here.’”

For 50 years and counting, Mr. Topping has worked nowhere else.

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What a wonderful, small-town story. Congrats and thanks to Mr. Topping for being a part of Southampton Village's history!
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Mar 29, 10 3:17 PM
By ELECTRICUTIONER (65), east islip/montauk on Mar 29, 10 6:22 PM
In the crazy world of Walmart, Mr. Topping, you are an icon. May God bless you.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 30, 10 9:59 PM