On one side of the counter of the V. Jordan Lumber Co. stand the pretzels and beverages for customers to munch on. On the other side is a notice reminding customers that the snacks, along with everything from doors to nuts, soon will be gone.
The 48-year-old family-owned East Glen Burnie hardware store will go out of business around Thanksgiving Day, falling victim to a combination of growing competition, rising taxes and insurance, shrinking profits and a shriveled home-building market.
"We're definitely holding our own; we can pull through this if we choose to. But as a family, we do not choose to," said Steve Jordan, 30, who runs the business with his brother Kent, 28. They are grandsons of founder Vurl Jordan.
"It's bittersweet," said Kent Jordan, who is sad about closing the store but excited about other ventures the family is considering.
The family decided last December that 1993 would be the last year for the store. They are looking into starting a family-oriented venture, though not at that site, and will continue to pursue another family business, the 63-acre Swan Lake Mobile Home Village in Fort Myers, Fla., started in 1972. They hope to lease the 4-acre lumber store property.
Generations of county residents have done business at Jordan Lumber, often with credit extended on a handshake.
Homes in Marley Park were built with the greenwood milled there between 1945 and 1952. Neighborhood youths ice-skated on the log pond, now gone, and jumped in the sawdust mountain behind the store.
While other area hardware and lumber outlets may capture some of Jordan's business, regular customers say they doubt any other hardware store will win their hearts the way the Jordan family has.
Annapolis-based contractor Tim Bozek, who has made breakfast out of the pretzels, chocolate bars and soda there, recalls that his grandfather and father frequented the store, and the Jordan family took a chance helping him when he was 19 years old.
"I started my business 20 years ago. They were the first business that extended me credit," he said.
He and other customers said they stuck with buying goods from the Jordans because of their extraordinary service and the family atmosphere, because you're just as welcome to stop by for a chat and doughnuts as to buy a 2-by-4.
Customers have lent the Jordans equipment, the Jordans have helped them with projects and special-ordered items for them. The family has left requested hardware outside for a customer who couldn't get there before closing time and settled the bill another day. And, says Steve Jordan, they've never been burned by doing business that way.
"We've had probably the best clientele any business could have," said June Jordan, Steve and Kent's mother and the store's bookkeeper. Daughter Tara, 24, helps her.
Founder Vurl Jordan was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Tennessee and had but a fourth-grade education when he started to work. In May 1941, he left a job running road-building equipment at a park in Tennessee because his brother-in-law heard there were good jobs in Baltimore.
He got one that was so good he sent for his wife, Rose, and their children: he made 65 cents an hour working for a company that was laying the water lines along Ritchie Highway.
Mr. Jordan formed Jordan & Clark Lumber Co. in 1945 with John Clark, a fellow member of the Church of the Nazarene in Marley Park, with money Mrs. Jordan had saved to move back to Tennessee.
The partners bought a used sawmill in Virginia, moved it to Maryland and began cutting trees and milling logs.
Nobody remembers for sure, but it was in the late '40s or early '50s that the U.S. Treasury Department contracted with Mr. Jordan to mill lumber for White House renovations. But by 1952 the mill closed as the demand for greenwood dropped.
The hardware store prospered, however, because customers still needed tools to work with the dry lumber they were buying elsewhere.
Mr. Jordan bought out Mr. Clark in 1955, and in later years, sons Jack and Robert took over the business. In 1970, Vurl Jordan retired and opened the mobile home park. Mr. Jordan died in 1988.
Steve and Kent came into the business in the late 1970s, after spending time there as children.
"I'm going to hate to see [the business] go," said Rose Jordan. "But I guess everything has to come to an end at some time."