Frank Bain outside his Ocean Avenue hardware store, where all the inventory was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)


“This isn’t a competition,” said a stone-faced Frank Bain, when asked if his would be the first business to reopen in Sea Bright after Hurricane Sandy.

But checking in on recent activity at Bain’s Hardware, a visitor might conclude that not only was Bain in a race, but one that his life depended on winning.

One late afternoon last week, the Ocean Avenue storefront was a swarm of dust-encrusted laborers, some installing new subflooring even as others continued with interior demolition work. At one point, an impromptu crew, Bain included, picked up and hustled the pieces of a shattered street lamp from the sidewalk out front to the side of the building.

Make no mistake about it: Bain is in a major hurry. With no flood insurance and every item in his 65,000-SKU shop destroyed, his economic life hangs in the balance, he’s the first to admit. “Getting that register ringing again is paramount,” he told redbankgreen.

But he’s driven just as much, he said, by the importance of his store to other businesses and homeowners who themselves are faced with rebuilding challenges. “We are out here working so that we can get back on our feet and help this town as soon as humanly possible,” he said.

Two weeks after businesses owners, residents and volunteers were allowed into the borough for lengthy periods of time to start clearing and cleaning their decimated homes and storefronts, the reconstruction in much of the downtown area is underway. Trash hauling vehicles and workers in Tyvek jumpsuits are being joined by lumber trucks and other suppliers.

Bain’s Hardware has long been a beloved spot on the town’s sole retail strip, and is one of the few remaining neighborhood-style, small scale hardware stores in the area, with so many others driven out of business in recent years by national heavyweights like Lowes and Home Depot.

In addition to the sentimental value of the business as a standing bastion of lost times, its practical use in the town is immense, said Bain. Having it operational soon could be key in the town’s rebuilding process.

“We are going to try as hard as we can to get at least half the store up and running in about three weeks,” Bain said. “I think is is of the utmost importance that we rebuild downtown Sea Bright and open up sooner rather than later, especially in our case. People are going to need us, and we want to be there.”

The business is getting a major leg up, said Bain, from the only supplier he has allowed to put its name beside his on the sign above the door: Benjamin Moore Paint. The Montvale-based company first came in with an offer to recycle all of the store’s ruined inventory, but went further by offering to replace 1,000 gallons, at no charge.

“It’s important to us to support a retailer, especially in an area like Sea Bright,” said company salesman Mike Tardiff, who was on the scene helping out last Wednesday. Getting the store up and running again “will be good for Sea Bright, for the people, and frankly for Bain’s,” he said.

But the symbolism of Bain’s reopening quickly isn’t lost on Bain or on Tardiff. “The town needs to see, and other merchants need to see, ‘if he can do it, we can do it,'” Tardiff said.

“Benjamin Moore went above and beyond with their help after Sandy,” said Bain. “They genuinely wanted to help us out, and stand in the trenches with us. Even though they’re a large corporation, they’re really just a family business at heart, like us.”

Bain said he had been overwhelmed by offers of help from painting contractors and other customers, who helped clear out trash. Hardware stores in Fair Haven and elsewhere have stepped up, offering assistance as well, he said.

“I’d rather not give out my name or pose for any pictures,” said one man, a resident of Oceanport who came out with his wife to help Bain and other merchants. “I’m not here helping out for recognition, or publicity or any of that stuff. I just want to help these guys out in any way that I can.”

Also on the sign adorning Bain’s is the phrase, ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors.’ Bain pointed up at the sign as he spoke.

“That really says it all,” he said.