FAIRBANKS - Friday night marked the end of an era for old Fairbanks when Samson Hardware closed its doors and turned out Johnny Albright's light for the last time.
Hundreds of old friends and customers passed through the aisles and stopped to admire one of the last original walls in the back, which is adorned with more than a 100 years of hardware.
The hardware store opened in 1904 as a mining equipment supply, later adding on a Ford automobile dealership and parts store and eventually a hardware store.
Apparently, under the floors of the old building are remnants of Model-T ford parts, according to Mike Hunt.
Hunt could tell stories about every square inch of the store, especially the old wall filled with sawdust, because he worked there from 1954, starting as a fresh-faced 20-year-old, until 1985.
"I put all these up there over the years," Hunt said as he looked over the wall.
From old Ford Model-T parts to wheat saws and old screws and horseshoes, Hunt remembers the countless hours he spent running through the aisles of the store searching for the perfect piece of hardware for his customers.
After 104 years of business, the store is closing to make way for an urban development plan that will cut through the Samson's hardware building, leaving only the Big International Bar.
Samson's owner Jeanne Stearns held a wake in honor of the business on Friday where food and old memories were passed around until closing.
Some of Hunt's fondest memories are seeing the customers pass by during the years, some in search of something in particular and others just in search of small talk.
"Dr. Schaible was just a real comet when he'd come through here," Hunt recalled.
"And Bobby Sheldon would have us all in stitches. But my boss, Johnny Albright, was a fantastic boss."
Albright took over the hardware store in 1948, after Jimmy Barrack, owner for the first half of the 20th century, passed on the keys.
According to Hunt, after just six months as a rookie employee, Albright gave him and all employees a $500 bonus and added another $500 each year after that. Some years, when sales were down, Albright would take out a bank loan to give everyone a Christmas bonus.
"The year he died I was to get a $10,000 bonus," Hunt said. "Johnny was the most unselfish man I ever knew. A real salt-of-the-earth kind of guy."
During the holidays, Hunt said, Albright would pass out expensive bottles of whiskey to his loyal customers as a holiday offering.
Friday afternoon, Hunt was scanning every nook and cranny in the building and reliving 51 years of his life.
"This building survived two floods, earthquakes and everything else," he said.
"And we never closed except Sundays."
Hunt pointed out every corner of the store with a new story from after-hours holiday parties that nearly led to the building catching fire, to working on the old sawdust walls and cleaning up after both floods.
"Everyone who's worked here has 10 years - even 20 and 30 years - of these stories," he said with a laugh.
Ann Schuyler has been the floor supervisor since 1998, and said she's never felt more part of a family than she has working at Samson's.
"This is the best job I've ever had," she said. "I've been asked everything about anything hardware these past years, and being able to help people with things they really need has been great."
As she worked and mingled with those coming to pay homage, Schuyler said the Samson Hardware store will rise again.
"When we get back, we're going to find a building almost as old and continue on just the same," she said. "There's a lot of history on this corner."
Longtime customer Vicki LeTarde was wiping away tears as she looked over the old wall and watched as loyal customers passed by.
"My husband and I came here in '79 and built our house from this hardware store," she said. "They have everything. We could always find things here that we couldn't get anywhere else."
LeTarde said she always felt confident when she shopped at Samson's because the employees often knew what she needed and how to fix something better than she did.
"I hope they reopen, but we're losing something that has been such a stronghold in Fairbanks today," she said. "There was just no place like it in town."
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