This is the second in a two-part series. Part one ran on Dec. 29.
Shortly after Home Depot opened nearby in 2006, a customer asked him why he was charging more than the big box hardware retailer. Beltway Plaza Hardware owner Barry “Pop” Blechman said that hit him, because “I don’t cheat people.” Luckily, around the same time, he began a computerized inventory that allowed him to easily check his prices against the Home Depot prices weekly.
Blechman was born to the business world, helping his family with their chain of stores. He’s been in the hardware business for 35 years.
Now, he is training 21-year-old Alejandra Ramirez to run the business. “She has been working here since she was 16, and relates well to Spanish-speaking customers, while I’m good with the senior citizens. We have good staff,” he says, “and we recently hired a locksmith.”
Blechman has a great sense of humor and has even been known to sit on St. Nick’s lap at the annual Greenbelt Lions Club Pancake Breakfast with Santa, held at the Greenbelt American Legion Post 136. He has been with the Lions Club for about 30 years, helping not only with the pancake breakfast but also with the Toy Box Fund Drive the club operates each year at various locations, including Beltway Plaza Mall. They have a box for toy donations at the Plaza’s center court area where Santa Claus visits, allowing them to give away 1,000 toys a year.
He says that in his business, it’s really exciting to see people at the pancake breakfast that he knows from the store, because it’s so personal. Blechman decided to get involved in the Lions Club during a conversation with former Lions Club president and Greenbelt recreation department director Hank Irving where they discussed how many hours he was spending in the store, interacting with the community.
He’s very happy with his life, with the combination of working with the public and staff at the store, the Lions Club, and the community he is part of—all this and he still has time to play golf with his retired friends where he lives, in Rockville.