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As the Giving Season gets closer, thousands of businesses throughout the country prepare for Small Business Saturday. From restaurants to retail stores, recreation activities and more, there’s a local business for everyone. Within the five-county Corridor, there are plenty of choices. This month’s feature highlights a family-owned hardware store that’s been in business for 155 years!
A F Boyer is the oldest hardware and gun store in the county. Running for 155 years (as of 2023), the store initially began as a quarry supply store called Boyer Brothers. With the perfect location in Slatington, the slate capital of the world at the time, the Boyer brothers were able to capitalize on the local slate industry, while solidifying their presence as an everyday hardware store for the community.
Over the years, the store became what is now known as A F Boyer, representing the initials and last name of all the men who owned the store in previous generations. It’s become a tradition for the Boyers, and continues through Abel Boyer, the current fifth generation owner of A F Boyer, and his wife Shannon.
“I’m lucky enough that my family was able to continue this,” said Abel. “All of the men that owned the store were AFB, they’re initials. I have two children now myself and it’s something that we’ve continued. The running joke is that we can’t change the sign out front because it would be too much money.”
As many children of small business owners do, Abel grew up in the store.
“It was interesting because you go to work with your parents and they put you to work right away. On the floors and helping customers and having people skills was a big thing for me. A lot of people, when they’re that young, don’t have communication with that many people. But we see quite a few hundred people every day come through the door. So, [developing this skill so early] is something that has been pretty neat.”
“There’s no doubt that business has definitely changed in the last 30 years, and even just in the last 10.”
According to Abel, the proliferation of big box stores and online retailers like Amazon have taken a heavy toll on small businesses. There was no option but for them to adapt to continue on. One of the ways they’ve adapted is, of course, creating a website.
Another way they maintained business was tapping into a new market. A F Boyer is the fourth largest Federal Firearms Licenser in the state of Pennsylvania. They sell firearms in their store, provide background checks, and even offer training to ensure that everything is being used safely and effectively. Creating a space within this “niche” has helped acquire new customers while still catering to their original base audience.
Because for Abel, the most important aspect of A F Boyer is the emphasis on customer service.
“We make sure when somebody comes in, they’re greeted, they’re helped, and they’re satisfied with the help that they have. Having that customer service and one-on-one experience in hardware, electrical, plumbing – it doesn’t matter what it is – they know that they’re going to get helped. The right way.”
This prioritization of the customers and their needs has marked A F Boyer as not just a staple in the Slatington community, but a destination to visit.
Those familiar with the D&L Trail have likely either visited, or at least know of the Slatington Trailhead at mile marker 92. But not everyone will know the story behind it.
Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (DLNHC) helps maintain, steward, and fund the D&L Trail through direct work with the trail landowners, usually municipalities. Much of that funding comes from grants provided to DLNHC or the landowners from federal, state, and local entities like the National Park Service, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, or municipal budgets.
But supplemental funds are often needed. Dorothy, Abel’s grandmother, came in to help fund the Slatington pavilion project.
“Dorothy ran the store when my grandfather, Alden, died. For many years – which back in the day, women running a business was not a big thing – she kept the store going. She was able to financially help finish the pavilion project and keep it local. I know the slate on the roof is from Penn Big Bed and the local quarries. I believe all of the wood was also local and the guy that finished it was local as well.”
Today, the Slatington Trailhead is one of the most popular along the D&L Trail. People travel for hours to explore both the nature and heritage that encapsulates the small town. It has become a true “trail town” destination, and right across the street is A F Boyer. As a D&L Trail Friendly Business, A F Boyer is there to help trail users; to put air in their tires, fill up their water bottles, and provide that reliable customer service they have become known for.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Alice Wanamaker, DLNHC Economic Development Manager and Slatington native. “They’re great people. All their staff have been here my whole life. You really can find almost everything you need here in the store. There are even crocks and baskets on the top floor. I think for the National Heritage Corridor, for the trail running right here through Slatington and what the Boyer family has done not just to honor their family, but to continue the growth – it’s amazing.”
While Abel has no intention of moving locations, he does look forward to the future.
“We’d like to expand one day. I plan on raising our two boys here and teaching them the store. I don’t plan on modernizing the store too much. If it’s worked for 155 years, why change it? But I do want to adapt and grow with our customers.”
This article was written in collaboration with Watershed Coalition of the Lehigh Valley as part of the DLNHC Faces of the Corridor campaign. If you would like to read more of the campaign, visit this link.