On September 19, 2016, Darlene Scott (b. 1932) and Gail Libbing announce through the media that they will soon close Carr's Hardware in downtown Marysville. The three-generation, family-run business has successfully operated since 1923. Over the decades, Carr's has weathered the 1930s Great Depression, the impact of Interstate-5, the mall era, and, in recent years, the advent of large box stores and online sellers. Carr's, located at 1514 3rd Street, has long been an important community center in the small Snohomish County town.
More Than a Store
Stocked with a large inventory of general hardware and home products, Carr's had just about everything, and what the proprietors didn't have they could order through a partnership with Ace Hardware. But Carr's was more than a supplier of goods to the town of Marysville. For nearly 93 years, it was also an important community gathering place. Its success was a tribute to Milford H. Carr (1886-1970) and three generations of his family.
Milford Carr was a Michigan native who followed his sweetheart, Jessie (1890-1926), to the town of Marysville in west-central Snohomish County about five miles north of Everett. The couple married, and Milford worked as a blacksmith with a forge on 1st Street. In 1921 he built the structure at what is now 1514 3rd Street as a real-estate investment. But when he could not find a tenant, he decided in 1923 to go into the hardware business, purchasing stock from a store that was closing in Mount Vernon. When Jessie became ill, one of her friends, neighbor Bertha Scott (1919-2002), helped care for her until her death in 1926. Bertha was a widow whose husband had drowned in 1924. She had moved that year from California back to her hometown of Marysville with her three children, Helen, Howard (1919-2012) and Robert Bruce (1921-1997). The Carrs had one daughter, Mildren. In 1931, Milford and Bertha married.
Stepsons Bruce (he used his middle name) and Howard Scott became for many years the main workers along with Milford at Carr's Hardware. Howard was the bookkeeper; after graduating in 1936 from Marysville High School he worked for a year and a half at Carr's before enrolling at the University of Washington. Howard had registered as a conscientious objector, and once drafted was assigned to alternative service. His dismay at the incarceration of Japanese Americans in 1942 spurred him to leave that posting, knowing he would face prison time. Howard served a year and a half at McNeil Island Penitentiary. Bruce Scott enlisted in the navy during World War II. Milford Carr, a veteran of World War I, supported both of his stepsons in their convictions. Bruce returned to Marysville in 1945 and became a partner with his stepfather at Carr's Hardware.
Growing Up in the Aisles
Darlene Campbell began working at the store in 1948. She and Bruce Scott married in 1951 and the couple ran the store together until Bruce's death in 1997. In 1953, the owners took a chance and expanded the store to twice its size at the same location. After Bruce Scott died, Bruce and Darlene's daughter Gail Scott Libbing became a partner, and she and her husband Maurice would keep Carr's thriving for decades more.
In 2006, Libbing told a reporter, "My sister, my brother and myself all grew up here, doing whatever had to be done, whether it was dusting or sweeping or stamping envelopes" (Deckard). But life in the store was not all work, as she recounted to another reporter on the occasion of the closing announcement:
"Gail Libbing remembered growing up in the store. She and her brother would ride displayed bicycles around the aisles, and her brother once knocked over a gumball machine, which shattered, spilling gumballs everywhere" (Davis).
In the early years, Carr's Hardware mainly stocked goods for loggers and farmers, but as the town's economy evolved the store changed to selling products mostly for home improvement and repairs. Workers often helped solve problems for do-it-yourselfers. What changed little over time was that Carr's was an important part of the Marysville community. Its back room was a place where neighbors and friends could come for daily coffee and a chat.
Darlene Scott and the Libbings sent out letters to customers in early September 2016 announcing the upcoming closure. Then they shut the store for three days to prepare. Hundreds of folks stopped in to buy something, even if they didn't need it, and to reminisce about Carr's.
Carr's closed down by the end of 2016. Scott and Libbing continued as owners of the building, leasing it to a group called 3rd Street Marketplace, a Creative Collaborative Space for Makers. Its members shared the Carrs' idea of keeping it a community place. A year later, neighbors were still gathering in the store's back room for coffee and conversation.