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Southern Delaware
Historic downtown Seaford era to end with loss of Burton Bros. Hardware
Burton Bros. Hardware, a historic downtown Seaford landmark heavily damaged by fire last November, will not reopen. The building, which dates back to 1893, will be demolished.

SEAFORD – To many, downtown Seaford without Burton Bros. Hardware is like salt without pepper, peanut butter without jelly, mashed potatoes without gravy or Oreos without milk.

Fear that arose as smoke and flames rose from the approximate 120-year-old historic High Street landmark just over four months ago have become reality: the building will come down and co-owners Ron and Ric Marvel will not reopen.

“We’re not going to reopen. Burton Bros. is not in business,” said Ron Marvel, noting the estimate to repair the building alone – without inventory replacement – was about $900,000. “The insurance was acceptable to us. It just wasn’t enough to put the structure back in the condition that we thought that it needed to be in. I got the insurance that I had paid for. The deal would be I was underinsured. That is the bottom line. It would cost more to repair the structure than the insurance I had.”

And so sometime this year, probably sooner than later, the 2-story structure that since the late 19th century has stood as a welcoming beacon on the southeastern side of Seaford’s downtown district will be razed.

“It has kind of been the anchor of the downtown – forever,” said Seaford Mayor Bill Bennett. “When I was a little kid it was there. It was a recognizable store; it had a unique storefront. When you saw it you knew what it was. It is going to be a big loss. It is going to change the whole look of downtown Seaford, when that building is gone.”

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Burton Bros. Hardware Store in downtown Seaford,” said Greater Seaford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paula Gunson. “We will also miss having Ron and Ric Marvel in the Chamber of Commerce. The business joined the Chamber in 1981 and Ron Marvel served on our Board of Directors for many years. Any time an historical landmark such as Burton Bros. is lost, the entire community grieves. We have lost many buildings with historical significance in the Seaford area that are sorely missed.”

About a dozen fire companies joined the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department – both Ron, 62, and Ric Marvel, 59, are longtime Seaford fire service members – in battling the blaze that was reported shortly after 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12. Ron Marvel said State Fire Marshal inspection determined the fire was caused by electrical malfunction in second-floor wiring in the front of the building overlooking High Street.

While fighting the blaze, Ric Marvel was injured and spent several days in a special burn medical center in southeastern Pennsylvania for smoke inhalation.

According to Ron Marvel the structure “is sound but you can’t do anything with it. It is un-repairable. You’ve got debris down in the walls. The building is going to be demolished. It has got to come down. And it is probably going to be sooner than later.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since the 1970s, Burton Bros. Hardware was a third-generation business in the Marvel family.

The Marvel brothers took over the appliance/hardware business about 43 years ago, following in the footsteps of their father, who took it over in 1954, and their grandfather, who started the family business in 1934.

“And I’ve got the paperwork that says she (building) was started in 1893,” Ron Marvel said.

While Burton Bros. is officially closed, some inventory is being salvaged and taken to Dave Wilson’s Auction Sales in Lincoln.

The closing will mean a loss of business and service.

“They had so much stuff there. Ronnie and Ricky knew what was there. They’d walk you over and pick it up out of one of those boxes on that wall … and that was it,” said Mayor Bennett. “They had vast knowledge and information. The chain and the big box stores don’t have all of that stuff. It will be hard to replace that … that knowledge and that service.”

It also is a shock in weekday routine for Jackson, Ron Marvel’s trusty 7-year-old rescue dog who has been a fixture at the hardware store.

In addition, Burton Bros. Hardware, located several blocks from the Seaford Fire Station 87 on Cannon Street, was a beehive for employees who doubled as members of local fire service, including Seaford and neighbor-to-the-south Blades. Some were younger junior members.

“When the fire whistle blew not only were Ronnie and Ricky there as Seaford firemen but a couple of the other people that worked there – they were either Seaford firemen or Blades firemen. If Seaford or Blades had a fire you were guaranteed people at the fire house,” said Mayor Bennett. “And the one with the lowest seniority got stuck working while everybody else got to go to the fire.”

“That’s the way it worked with our younger members,” Ron Marvel said. “Lowest man on the totem pole, stayed.”

Ron Marvel said they are keeping some items of sentimental value, and are also offering some things of historic value to the Seaford Museum, located several blocks away on High Street.

“As with many small towns, the ‘old downtown’ area of Seaford has been impacted by the loss of Burton Bros. and other historical buildings,” Ms. Gunson said. “We hope the efforts of the City of Seaford the Seaford Enhancement Team to revitalize the downtown area is successful. There are many great ideas floating around and we support the efforts to bring back that special ‘hometown feeling’ in the heart of Seaford."

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at 629-5505 or grolfe@newszap.com.

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