Wheels for a vintage Cub Cadet riding tractor mower are what Philip LoPresto hopes to find when he walks into Johnson's Hardware in Groton.
The retired plumbing contractor veers into the adjacent Taylor Rental and Repair Shop and confesses to owner Michael Mattson that he doesn't know the size of the shank.
"If you get the size of the thing, maybe I can look it up in the after-market book," Mattson says.
At 62, restoring the mower helps take LoPresto's mind off the fact that his son, Jeffrey, 31, has lost his job at T-Mobile in Wichita, Kan.
"Imagine looking for a job in this environment," he wonders aloud.
Rising fuel prices, the Wall Street crisis and high consumer prices are taking their toll on the everyday American, LoPresto says. "The average person don't realize how much money they're losing in their 401(k)s and their stocks and stuff like that," he says. "My wife, she goes quilting with some people, her friend there lost, oh, I don't know, maybe $150,000 in the last, you know, when this started."
Store owner Bill Johnson says he completed a remodeling that enabled him to expand his paint and cabinet fixture products last year, "just in time" to avoid the economic downturn.
Retail hardware-store owners facing the current credit crunch are generally holding off on expansions, says Chris Jensen, executive editor of Hardware Retailing, a monthly magazine of the Indianapolis-based North American Retail Hardware's Association.
Otherwise, however, business is healthy because most homeowners are maintaining or repairing their homes instead of buying new or trading up, he says.
The economy still worries Mattson, though.
"People are very nervous about what's going to happen," he says, "including myself."