A press stop for two U.S. presidents, W.S. Jenks & Son in Washington, D.C., has endured for more than 137 years by adapting and being known for strong niches such as government sales, woodworking tools and Genie lifts.
Throughout its more than 137-year history, W.S. Jenks & Son has changed locations numerous times. The current store on Bladensburg Road in the northeast section of the nation’s capital was originally built as an auto dealership.
Claiming the title of “Washington’s Oldest Hardware Store,” W.S. Jenks & Son has been serving the Washington, D.C., area for 137 years. Current father-son co-owners Jerry and Mike Siegel credit this astounding longevity to being agile and readily adapting.
This Century Club retailer has been in the Siegel family since 1952, and during their more than seven decades of stewardship, the family has endured real estate crises, banking collapse, almost going out of business in the early ‘90s and, most recently, COVID.
“During the pandemic, we learned that our business is capable of adapting quickly,” Mike Siegel says. “We also learned not to make any long-term decisions based on that time period. My biggest takeaway was how great it is to adapt and be agile.”
During the course of the store’s long history, it has had several homes in Washington, moving in 1986, 2003 and 2014. The building W.S. Jenks & Son occupies today on Bladensburg Road was originally NE Ford, an auto dealership. To honor that past, customers now stroll by a 1930 Ford Model A Woodie in the center of the salesfloor.
“Because we’ve bounced around from neighborhood to neighborhood, we’re not a store that our customers have been going to for 50 years,” Siegel says. “We kind of mirror D.C., because it’s a transient place.”
A Do it Best member since 2013, the store has 15,000 square feet of retail space for hardware, tools and other hardlines. Located in the northeast side of Washington, the store boasts another striking feature: a 4,000-square-foot rooftop garden center stocked with a large assortment of plants suitable for urban needs, such as those that can be placed on balconies and in smaller backyards.
“The store really serves the needs of its urban customer base,” says John Ludeman, Do it Best territory sales and business development manager. “The store has a lot of charm and they’re always looking to update products and add new planograms.”