“I just think it’s time to close,” Betty Barnes, owner, said. “I’m ready to go to the beach for a while. It’s just time.” Barnes got involved in the business in 1954 with her husband, the late Benson Barnes.
William Henry “W.H.” Barnes opened the institution in 1929 with his two sons, the late Felton Barnes (Betty’s father-in-law) and the late Bill Barnes (former Gov. Roy Barnes’ father). Felton took over the business and operated the store until he died in 1978 with his son, Benson Barnes. After her husband’s death in 2002, Betty ran the business full time.
Closing the store is an emotional time for Betty who, like her husband, was born and raised in Cobb County. The Austell native’s father was C.H. “Fat” James, a former Austell mayor. “I have very deep roots, very deep roots in Cobb County,” the Mableton resident said.
In 1954, Betty married Benson Barnes, who was born on Floyd Road in Mableton. “We’re OM — Old Mableton,” she joked. She is the mother of two grown daughters, Carla Snavely and Beth Skelton, and grandmother of six.
“I have been down there (at the store) ever since we married, helping my husband but not completely responsible for everything until after his death,” she said. “It’s very emotional to close after all these years.”
Located in the heart of Mableton next to the railroad, Barnes Hardware is a mainstay in the community. “All the farmers came and charged their supplies on signature until their harvest came in, and then they would pay it,” she said.
Little has changed over the years at the general merchandise store. Original heart pine flooring remains in part of the store. The warehouse, that started as a fertilizer plant, still opens in the back onto the railroad. Only minor renovations have been made over the years to the hardware and clothing areas.
Betty recalled that during the early 1930s when W.H. Barnes wanted to change the tin building to brick, the railroad claimed the property right up to the structure. “The railroad said W.H. couldn’t have another inch. He could not brick on top of his building. So he just bricked on the inside of the building and tore the tin off,” she said, laughing.
“(The store) is still just about like it was. Not a lot of changes have been made. It’s very unique,” she said. “People come from all around just to see the building.
“I will really miss going down to the store and seeing all the people that have been coming in as regular customers for so long,” she continues. “I’ll miss seeing all those folks. It’s just a hometown store and hometown people, and they’re all wonderful.”
Visit Barnes Hardware Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Dec. 31. Call (770) 948-2430 for more information.