The History of Nobman's Hardware

Our Beginning

Nobman’s Hardware Emporium was founded in 1910 by William H. Nobman and his father Frederick R. Nobman. Originally a smaller store, Nobman’s was located next to the historic Fleet’s Hall, and directly across from a building which once served as Theodore Roosevelt’s summer White House. Nobman’s expanded to its current footprint in 1925.  Situated at the corner of South Street and East Main Street, Nobman’s is the cornerstone of this small but lively center of commerce.  

During the early years Nobman’s thrived as a supplier to the large estates of the Gold Coast.  Financial records from this time show hand-written accounts under names like Roosevelt, Tiffany, Brewster and W.R. Coe.  

The arrival of the Great Depression heralded the first major change for Nobman’s Hardware.  The opulence which defined the Gold Coast during the Gilded Era of the 1920s vanished, as owners of the Great Estates sold off, or in some notable cases, abandoned the beautiful properties.  

With many fewer surviving estates to service, Nobmans’ proprietors stocked merchandise and established a range of services that were useful to the broader community.  Among the innovations that saw Nobman’s through the Great Depression were the addition of a picture frame shop, and a section selling children’s toys and art supplies.

This was the beginning of a long tradition at Nobman’s, and one which has defined this Gold Coast institution: Embracing change to suit the needs of the Oyster Bay community.

The Changing of the Guard

Nobman’s saw other changes during the Depression. William H. Nobman retired, leaving the business to his son Walter Nobman and Walter’s brother in law George Hammond.  

No longer under the leadership of one of its founders, the business expanded after the Second World War into the marine supply business. Nobman’s then added outdoor power equipment to its inventory, and an equipment repair shop to meet the needs of the growing numbers of returning GIs and their families in suburban Long Island.  

Walter Nobman and George Hammond continued to operate Nobman’s together as a partnership through the mid-1960s. Together they weathered the Depression where many businesses had failed; establishing Nobman’s as integral to the culture and tradition of Oyster Bay.

Surviving the Big Box Retailers

In 1964 after graduating from college and completing time in the U.S. Army, Richard Nobman, son of Walter Nobman and the fourth generation proprietor of Nobman’s Hardware, joined the family business.  Richard purchased Nobman’s from his father and George Hammond in 1975 and became its sole proprietor.  With new ownership came significant changes.  

In 1978, Richard remodeled the Nobman’s Hardware building to allow for an increase in retail space within the store.  This permitted Richard to increase the variety of merchandise sold, and to create distinct departments within the store, which reflected the changing taste of shoppers of that time.

These changes gained him industry recognition via a feature in Hardware Merchandiser magazine in the 1980s.

Later, Richard expanded selection of unique and hand-crafted merchandise, including homegoods, cook books, artisanal candles, blankets and gifts.  

Offering a wide variety of goods allowed Nobman’s to compete with the growing trend toward one-stop shopping and big box retailers.  Nobman’s successfully weathered the opening of several Home Depots and home centers within a few miles of Oyster Bay, and set itself apart by offering customers a level of knowledge, convenience and customer service not found in the big box stores.

Nobman’s in its Ninth Decade

In 1998 Derrick Nobman, son of Richard Nobman and fifth generation proprietor of Nobman’s Hardware, began his career at Nobman’s by taking on a managing role in the business.  
In 2000, upon Richard Nobman’s retirement, Derrick assumed responsibility for and later purchased Nobman’s.  Like the generations that have preceded him, Derrick saw opportunities for innovation and expansion.  

Derrick began by updating the retail product mix to reflect growing trends within the community and to accommodate shifts in shopping trends and tastes.  With the help of a booming economy, Derrick was able to grow Nobman’s as a business and to meet long-term financial goals.   

In 2004 Derrick opened Nobbies Hobbies, a full service hobby center.  The addition was geared toward addressing the lack of an accessible hobby shop for North Shore residents and a response to the growing popularity of remote control hobbies within the community.  This innovative new ‘store within a store’ added to the unique selection of merchandise available at Nobman’s.  The addition of Nobbies Hobbies continued the tradition at Nobman’s of keeping the merchandise offered interesting and fresh. 

Back to Basics

After a devastating fire destroyed Nobman’s Hardware in January of 2005, the Nobman family reaffirmed their commitment to the Oyster Bay community and decided to rebuild.  In addition to bringing back the ground level retail space for Nobman’s, eight living spaces were created, which were geared toward drawing young professionals into the Oyster Bay community.

However, when Nobman’s got the green light to reopen its doors in February of 2007 after a long rebuilding process, it was opening its doors to a changing community.  Customers were tightening their belts in response to frightening financial news from the rest of the country, and economic forecasters were calling for a storm of epic proportions.  The bursting of the housing bubble, the financial crisis in 2008 and the subsequent ‘Great Recession’ have defined Nobman’s first several years back in business.  The hand-crafted items that Nobman’s had trouble keeping in stock before the fire, were now luxury items that customers were, understandably, foregoing for the basics.  

In the face of an uncertain future and a cautious customer base, Nobman’s did what it has always done best: it changed.  Nobman’s liquidated the remaining merchandise from Nobbie’s Hobbies and many of the artisanal and gift items.  The literal nuts and bolts of hardware became the primary focus, and remained the focus until Spring of 2012 when a new ‘shop within a shop’ sprang up.