Harrison’s breaks a tradition of the Milford Hall of Fame. It is not a person. Even if Charles W. Harrison and Alfred E. Gould founded it in 1907, “Harrisons,” as it came to be known, is remembered less for the people than for what the place came to mean to the Milford community.
Harrison and Gould were so successful that competitors arrived. The Milford Hardware Company set up in a then modern two-story building to the east on Broad Street best known today as the last home of Hebert Jewelers. It is long gone, as Harrison’s weathered all competition until the arrival of the big box stores, Home Depot and Lowes.
Both men were experienced hardware men. Harrison had worked seven years for Bronson & Townsend in New Haven before joining 10-year man Gould at Lightbourn & Pond Co. for an additional five years. From their posts they were able to assess the needs of the small community nine miles west and on the main line to Bridgeport eight miles further.
Harrison & Gould founded their hardware store in downtown Milford concentrating on good management, broad inventory, fair prices and personal service. Their operation was so successful that their activities made up a whole chapter in a business education text. The personal service model was carried on to Harrison’s end under the Miller brothers as an Ace Hardware outlet.
Milford of 1907 was a small town of about 3,000 people and something more than double that during summer. Makings its point H&G proudly advertised that they were “Open year round.” They also “delivered the goods” with a well-stocked horseless delivery truck. By the twenties, a Socony gas pump graced the front sidewalk and Harrison’s stocked all kinds of auto parts. A satellite store was set up in downtown Devon.
Harrison’s is well remembered for its large and eclectic inventory, wavy wood floors and personal service. Try to match a certain screw and a friendly employee would descend into the basement to find its match, then charge the eight cents required. It was a retail model we will never see again.
On January 22, 2006, a fire broke out. Water from the sprinklers and fire department did the most damage. Attempts to reopen and compete with the big box stores failed. Hoping to restore the hardware store, Milford Broad Street, LLC, bought the site for $450,000 but restoring the hardware store would not happen.
In repurposing the site for restaurant use, Colony Grill tore down and replaced the front, and oldest, part of the building while storage sheds at the rear of the building were removed for a dining patio. Colony Grill opened in 2013.
There has been some confusion about the location of the Harrison’s building and its heritage. This is largely due to the innocently misleading captions placed on the fabulous photos of Milford that Dan Moger placed on his calendars. Here are the facts. The original building was built around 1900 and was fairly small at 20-feet wide by 50-feet deep. It was occupied by Joseph “Doc” Barnes’ pharmacy and upstairs by Mrs. Merwin’s millinery.
By 1905, Doc had moved two doors east (now Shoreline Mortgage / Spalthoff) while Mrs. Merwin moved to where One New Haven Avenue stands today. J.H. Barnes’ pharmacy at his new site was never a Harrison’s location - but after H&G arrived Doc was wise enough to give up hardware sales in favor of ice cream.
Harrison & Gould took the entire “old” building in 1907 then 22 Broad Street (later 40 Broad). Six years later in 1913, the “new” building was widened by 8 feet and lengthened by 30. The resulting off-center entry remained the same until the building was torn down.
About 1920, the building was enlarged again to 150 feet in length and thereafter a 90-foot warehouse adjacent to the main building was added.