BURNETTSVILLE — In the fall of 1963, Ed Pritts was 24 years old. The town of Burnettsville sported four gas stations, two grocery stores, a custom cabinetry shop and a blacksmith. And a hardware store.
Pritts bought the hardware store at 328 S. Main St. and opened it up for his first morning as owner on Sept. 20, 1963. Fifty years later, the rest of the businesses are gone, but Pritts Pro Hardware still stands at the corner of Fourth and Main streets in Burnettsville, a town in White County just west of the Cass County line on U.S. 24 where about 347 people now make their homes.
“I’ve lived here all of my life and the hardware store has always been there,” said Burnettsville postmaster Bambi Davidson. “It’s always been so convenient.”
Just down the street from the hardware store, Wanda Lytle, a loan officer at State Bank of Burnettsville, recalls raising her family next door to the Pritts home. Their children usually played together in one or the other of the families’ yards, she said.
“They’ve always been really nice people,” Lytle said. “‘Course, we miss his wife.”
Ed and his late wife, Beverly, used to share the duties at the hardware store, until Beverly died after contracting West Nile virus about six years ago. After her death, Ed Pritts said he resolved to keep the store open at least until his 50th anniversary year.
That anniversary arrives Friday. So now what?
“It’s a big decision,” Pritts, 74, said in his crisp, friendly style. He’d like to find a buyer for both the store itself and all the inventory inside, he said — “but that’s hard to do.”
He has three children, five grandchildren and a 2-year-old great-grandson, he said, but his children aren’t interested in taking over the hardware store after he decides to take it easy.