For nearly 50 years, James A. Bean and his Morrell Park hardware store was the place local residents turned to for advice and items that ranged from minute cotter pins to elbow joints, screws, bolts, paint and electrical supplies.
Mr. Bean, who operated Bean's Hardware in the 2700 block of Washington Blvd. for nearly 50 years until its closing in 1988, died Thursday of cancer at Glynn Taff Assisted Living in Catonsville. The Arbutus resident was 86.
Mr. Bean took over the business in 1939. His father, Albert Bean, founded the business in 1925 as an automobile supply shop on Washington Boulevard, U.S. 1, then the main highway from Maine to Florida.
"Dad sold tires, tubes and batteries back in the Model-T Ford days," Mr. Bean told The Evening Sun at the store's closing in 1988. "There were times when the whole first floor of our house was full of tires. Then Montgomery Ward opened down the boulevard and killed the auto business. He got into the general hardware business, with paint, plumbing and electric supplies and, of course, lights and decorations at Christmas."
The store also sold console radios and the vacuum tubes that kept them humming. At Christmas, electric trains were sold.
After the through traffic ended on Washington Boulevard, the store became a local hardware store serving the surrounding neighborhood and weekend handymen who came searching for advice and supplies.
A kindly man with a soft smile, Mr. Bean had a well-earned reputation as a patient teacher who saved more than one homeowner from a self-inflicted handyman disaster.
Mr. Bean lived in a shingled house next door to the store that changed little over the intervening years.
With its pressed-tin ceiling, faded green walls and a myriad of bins, cubbyholes and shelves that held the shop's eclectic inventory, the shop smelled pleasantly of varnish, paint and oil.
The store also was a gathering place for retired carpenters and painters who swapped tales while filling in for Mr. Bean if he were temporarily absent from the store.
"He really liked the business and was well-known throughout the neighborhood," said Aloysius Brent Bean, a brother who lives in Linthicum Heights.
Born in St. Mary's County and raised next door to the shop, Mr. Bean was a graduate of Calvert Hall College. During World War II, he served with the Navy in the Pacific Theater of operations.
He was married in the late 1930s to the former Marie Rinick, who died in 1968. He then was married to the former Mildred Gagne, who died in 1997.
He was a communicant of Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Monday.
Mr. Bean also is survived by a daughter, Patricia A. Geppi of Sykesville; a stepson, Eugene Crawford of Catonsville; another brother, John E. Bean Sr. of Glen Burnie; and six grandchildren.