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Suter Hardware marks 100 years

Locksmith business helps store thrive

Mirror photo by Walt Frank / Manager Matt Mason, son of owner Dan Mason, works behind the counter at Suter Hardware and Mason Locks. The business is celebrating its 100th year of operation.

A small business has to find its niche to survive in today’s world.

Luckily, Suter Hardware and Mason Locks, 2415 Union Ave., which is celebrating 100 years in business in 2020, has — car keys with remotes.

“I’ve about doubled the business in the past two years with the car keys. I sell them and program them. (I do) the same thing dealerships do, but I do it for half the price,” said store manager Matt Mason, son of current owner Dan Mason.

Mason, a locksmith by trade, said the majority of his key business is from Blair County.

“I will go to places like Cresson if someone loses their keys. I am the only person who will come to you so you won’t get towed,” Mason said.

The business was founded by Lloyd S. Suter on Sept. 11, 1920 after he purchased the Drummond Co. at 2225 Eighth Ave.

The business, named Lloyd S. Suter Hardware at the time, moved to its present location on Union Avenue in 1924.

“Union Avenue was a more bustling area than Eighth Avenue,” Mason said.

Suter was a plumber by trade.

“It started as a plumbing business. People would ask for items so he expanded into the hardware business,” Mason said.

Suter sold sporting goods in addition to hardware.

“A lot of people bought their first guns here. Lloyd was an avid sportsman, they had all kinds of sporting goods at one point. When we took over, we quit selling guns — there had been a lot of break-ins,” Mason said. “Lloyd was also a locksmith and worked on automobile locks. He also sold Evinrude boat motors and Old Town canoes.”

Suter died in 1946 and the name of the business was changed to Suter Hardware.

Back in those days, the City of Altoona and nearby Puritan were among the business’s biggest customers. Today most of the customers are do-it-yourselfers.

In 1983, the business was sold to David Mason.

“My grandfather got laid off from his job at J.C. Penney Auto Center and decided he wanted to have his own business. He kept the name because it was well known and added Mason Locks, the locksmith part of the business,” Mason said.

David Mason died in 2000 and Dan Mason took over the business.

Today, Mason Locks makes up the larger part of the business.

“When my pap (David) took over, three-quarters of the business was hardware and it has switched to three-quarters of the business is locksmithing,” Mason said.

The business took a hit in the mid-1990s when Lowe’s relocated from Duncansville to 17th Street.

“That cut our business in half,” Mason said.

To compete against the larger stores, Suter Hardware and Mason Locks offers several specialty items and top-notch service.

“Our big thing is specialty items — we carry more than before. Regular hardware stuff doesn’t cut it any more. If someone wants a galvanized bucket, I stock the entire catalog. We sell galvanized cans for garbage and oval tubs — they only have one size. I have a greater selection. Watering cans are a big seller in the summer,” Mason said.

“People who have older houses come here for hinges and door knobs,” Mason said. “Our service was always important, all of our work is guaranteed. With locksmith work, I guarantee everything I do.”

Another challenge has been the increase in online sales.

“Amazon and the internet are big issues for us. The hardware store is where you go to look at it and then order it on the phone,” Mason said.

Mason and his father Dan are proud to see the business make it to the 100-year mark.

“That was our goal to keep it open for 100 years. Matthew is keeping it open. His work with the car keys is the big thing,” Dan Mason said.

“It is hard for any business to make it for more than five years and we have been here for 100 which is amazing. If we hadn’t purchased the business I don’t know if it would still be here, we have fun, it keeps us going,” Matt Mason said.

Jim Suter, Lloyd Suter’s grandson and president of neighboring Suter Fencing, is excited to see the business reach 100 years.

“This is a milestone, a lot of the mom and pop hardware stores in the 1950s, 60s and 70s are gone. They are a survivor. My mom, grandfather and father all worked there to keep it going,” Suter said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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