March 10th, 2014
Size: 60,000 sq. ft.
Collective Experience: 117 years
Strangest Project Assist: Ball Aerospace and Technologies spacecraft
McGuckin’s is the nation’s largest independent hardware store; its size rivals a big-box store and its inventory exceeds most national retailers. “They have everything, literally everything,” says Steve Garran, chief creator at makerspace Club Workshop in Denver. Although Garran only gets out of Denver once in a while, he wishes “McGuck’s” was in his backyard. On a recent trip to Boulder for a robotics event, Garran desperately needed an obscure fine-threaded metric bolt, late on a Saturday afternoon. “Those guys have one of everything and they know where it is,” he says. “McGuck’s leads you to want to move to Boulder.”
Even though the store is huge, with 275 employees, it still manages to retain the local flavor of its start. Dogs are allowed as long as they’re on a leash. One of the founders of the store, Dave Hight, still comes in with a feather duster in his back pocket, cleaning off shelves and telling dirty jokes. “He’s a little bit like Santa Claus,” says blogger Sarah Studer. Trying to describe her appreciation for the place, Studer notes, “The employees have never once judged my mother and I for asking them to assist us in building the most bizarre contraptions for our home.”
Of all the things he’s sold, Randy Barker, a store manager, is most proud of the McGuckin items used by engineers from local firm Ball Aerospace and Technologies. “We have bolts, hoses, and connectors floating around in space right now,” he says. Other technical challenges arise from University of Colorado engineering professors as well as the various makers visiting the store. “You need a giant slingshot?” asks Barker. “You come tell me how big.”