AIKEN - There's not much demand for hog rings, 15-gallon cast-iron cooking pots, corrugated washboards or turkey bells these days, but the customer in need of these and other once-common rarities can find them at Jones Supply Co.
And if that same customer needs a cane pole, a breed of worm known as a Louisiana pink and a bucket of fat shiners - also known as minnows - they all can be found on the northeast corner of Williamsburg Street and Richland Avenue in Aiken.
Look for the hand-lettered sign that touts this former Packard dealership as the place to pick up a fishing license, live bait, shaved ice and hardware of both the easy- and hard-to-find kind.
Just don't look for a man named Jones. He's long gone.
You can find Pat Maroney, the owner, anytime after 6 a.m. on any day of the week except Tuesday and Sunday, proud that he runs a place with the feel of an old country store, prouder still that he rarely runs out of a customer's obscure need.
"People come in here about 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning and say 'You got so-and-so?' and I'll say, 'How many do you want?' and they'll just fall over," said Mr. Maroney, a lifelong Aiken County resident who lives with his wife, Janalyn, in the Rocky Springs community east of town.
One of his clerks, Alicia Corder, employed just a month but already a hard-core devotee of the store's eclectic inventory, walks up with an old-style, refillable oil can - the type with the thumb pump and thin, curled spout.
"Every time I see one of these, I want to sing The Wizard of Oz," said Ms. Corder, who brings her children in on Saturdays to hang out at the store.
Mr. Maroney laughs and nods: "Yeah, the Tin Man."
Jones Supply opened at 640 Laurens St. in 1955 and was owned by Julius Jones, the biggest supplier of live worms in Aiken County at the time. Leland Judy owned the store from 1973 until 1988, when Mr. Maroney fulfilled a dream by buying the combination bait shop and hardware store.
In 1996, he moved the store to the 1940s-era dealership he refurbished and quickly started filling it with - well, let's just say some of the items have a time-worn patina.
Jones Supply doesn't have the pot-bellied stove of the classic country store. But it does have its gaggle of regulars who stop by every day, grab a chair behind the counter, swap stories and political views, and compete for the seat of honor: a 1942 pedestaled beauty shop chair that can still be raised and lowered by a foot pump.
The one-liners are free.
"You know what I'll do if John Kerry gets elected?" asks Tom Thompson, 72, a retired Signal Corps soldier who served in Vietnam. "Buy ketchup. I figure his wife needs all the help she can get."
Eugene Carter, 52, a retired textile mill worker, walks in to buy a thin metal chain and a blue nylon collar for a new puppy.
"That's basically the main thing right there - I can find things in here I can't find anyplace else," he said.
Things like cowbells and four kinds of worms and three sizes of minnows. It's the secret of Pat Maroney's success.
"How do I make any money? Have stuff you can't get anyplace else," he said.
Reach Jim Nesbitt at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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