Beloved Monroe County family-owned hardware store closing after 99 years

SWEETWATER (WATE) – For close to 100 years, a Monroe County business has been the go-to place for any handyman. Sadly, the hardware store is locking up and closing for good. Wright Hardware in downtown Sweetwater recently made the tough decision to close. Since then, customers have been swinging by to share some of their favorite memories.

The business has a rich past. Wright Hardware began in 1917.

“It started about two blocks down the street,” said current owner Debbie Exum.

She has a photo album filled with pictures and newspaper clippings from the past. The family bought Wright Hardware in 1983.

“It’s a home away from home,” said Debbie Exum.

Debbie Exum
Debbie Exum

“I would come here after school every single day,” said her son Joey Exum.

Things have changed over the years – owners, the layout, even what the company sold. Employees still use a scale from 1917 to accurately weigh nails, screws and bolts. Nowadays customers say they keep coming back, not just for tools, but for the service.

“They’ve been good to me. Anybody that will get out of bed at night when you have a problem and come and open their doors to let you get something,” said Victor Upton.

It’s something many say they’ll miss because the store is closing September 28. The Exum family decided it’s time to close after their owner, Riley Exum, passed away.

“It was hard, but I know that’s what Riley would’ve wanted me to do,” said Debbie Exum.

“Working here, I got to spend more time with my dad than anybody else did, more than my brothers and sisters. I got to absorb a lot of the knowledge he had for this stuff and life in general,” added Joey Exum.

There’s the hope somehow Wright Hardware stays open, but if not, it’ll be missed.

“I’m really going to miss them,” said Upton.

Wright Hardware would have celebrated 100 years in a matter of months had they stayed open past September 28.

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