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A to Z Tools at 6042 Franklin Rd., was another business I frequented and liked to send folks to.
I suppose every town has a used tool place, but none are as unique as this little shop. I discovered the store in a strip mall just west of Curtis on Franklin Road 10 years ago. I made immediate friends with the owners. The sheer magnitude of the tools they’ve got on display is awesome and initially overwhelming. Still, it only takes a few moments to get a sense of where things live because it is very organized.
Tools are something I have always been fond of, and that was another thing I had in common with Grandpa Ben. I also remember my first tool. It was a finish hammer that I still have and use regularly, given as a birthday present by my older brother Mike.
John & Nipa Wilder shared my love of tools and understood the difference between “home owner grade” and “construction grade”. John knew where they were made, what kind of bearings they had, and what each item cost new. He used to scour the pawn shops weekly for only the high quality stuff, and eventually got preferential pricing because he was a regular. When the downturn in construction hit several years ago, he was prepared for the flood of tools that came in as contractors bailed out of the area.
They started in Boise in July of 1998. John had worked in Redding California in the same industry and had essentially been in the tool business all his life. He would travel to tool expos all over the North West and had a keen eye for what people would like to add to their toolbox. He also would take tools in on trade or just buy them outright. He would clean them up and make sure they operated properly and would always either take one back or trade it in for another one, if it wasn’t up to snuff.
Beyond being a customer, I became part of their family. Whenever I need to be cheered up I would stop in for a beer after hours, where I could surround myself with tools and tell them what was up with the family and my projects. I especially loved the “Out of Order” bathroom that I offered to fix, only to discover that it was working fine but reserved for their special customers only.
As I get older, I find it harder and harder to find tools I don’t have. I hold John & Nipa personally responsible for that. Despite the two of them suffering an amazing amount of medical issues, they kept the shop running. Where they found the strength and mental toughness to continue the store, surely comes from a different generation.
John passed away a little over a year ago, leaving Nipa holding down the fort. I thought she was going to close up shop last December, but like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps on going.
John was fascinated with the new Bay Bridge being built next to the existing one. He had no doubt that he would survive to its completion. Although he didn’t, I will toast him when they finally get it done, and surely have his spirit with me as I drive it someday.
If you find yourself needing a great used tool for a good price please stop in and see Nipa first. Odds are she has several to choose from. After all a used tool is created as soon as the wrapper is removed.
I especially appreciate how they care about me, my employees, and my family. Nipa, who’s a native of Bangkok Thailand, greets me with “How yo’ boy”? Somewhere along the line, she developed a love for my son Ethan. She is coming to his next gymnastics meet and will be cheering every bit as loud as his mother.
Post Script 12-2013
I had been leaving messages and notes on the front door but I did not get a response, the sign said that there was a death in the family, The phone message Nippa left was on November 13th and she closed a little early for the last time. Nippa will be missed so much. My only wish was that I had a chance to hug her one more time and tell her how much I loved her. May you find peace and be free of pain and suffering, but most of all may all the nice things you did in your life come back to you ten fold in your new existence.
This Thanksgiving I did get to take the new bridge and I thought of my friends John and Nipa Wilder as I toasted them over a can of cheap beer, the ones they kept for their special friends in the bathroom that was always closed for repairs.