Hardware Store Veterans Bruce and Steven Stark Holding Big Giveaway of Clean-Up Supplies

Bruce Stark at a giveaway in front of the former Beacon Paint & Hardware. Photo by Lisa Alpert.

With city services cut in the pandemic, some Upper West Siders have taken it upon themselves to clean their own blocks. To help out, longtime local business owners Bruce and Steven Stark and their new employer Costello’s Ace Hardware, are doing a big giveaway on Saturday.

They’ll be giving away 400 large garbage bags, 300 pairs of gloves, and 24 trash grabbers – one to a customer on a first-come/first-served basis. They will be at the corner of West 81st Street and Columbus Avenue Saturday, September 12th starting at 10 a.m. and for as long as supplies last.

Bruce and Steven owned Beacon Paint on 78th and Amsterdam for decades before it closed in February. It had been around for 120 years in the neighborhood. Costello’s, also a family-run buisness hired them at the height of the pandemic to do commercial sales out of their apartment. The Starks sent us the following explanation of their history in the community, and why they’re helping out now:

The current condition of the neighborhood does not sit well with the Starks. While they don’t have a store front, they remain part of the community and looked for ways to help. Cleaning up and caring for the community has always been a priority, as it has been for many years.

Sadly, the brothers’ father, Mel Stark, died at the age of 93 on September 4th. Mel was out every morning sweeping the sidewalk in front of the store. He loved telling the story about a man who came up to him and said, “You must be the boss,” to which Mel replied, “Why do you say that?” The man said, “Because you have a broom in your hands.”

The Starks have been part of the UWS since 1971, when Mel Stark bought the store from the original family (who were also West Siders going back to the early 1900’s).

The Starks always cared about the community and people. In 1976, the Dome Project was founded. It is an organization to help inner city youths obtain jobs. John Simon, the founder of the Dome Project, came to Mel Stark and asked him to hire a young man. He said the state would pay his salary, and after six months, that young man would be “done” with the project. Six months later, Mel insisted on keeping the young man, and said he would pay him. Over the years, the Starks employed 40 such men from the Dome Project. Byron C., who was the first one to come to work there, is still close with the family and has helped them out, right up until Beacon’s closing.

In 1973, the 77th Street Block Association wanted to paint over graffiti and the city was sponsoring a neighborhood cleanup project. A couple of member of the block association came to Beacon and were ready to pay for the paint and supplies needed, but Mel Stark would not accept any money for it. He was grateful they cared enough to spruce up the street.  The street won 1st Place in a contest the city sponsored for the nicest street. Five years later, Beacon again donated the paint for the mural to be re-painted.

The Starks have always cared about the community, sponsoring numerous street cleanup days, donating paint and supplies to paint over graffiti on mail boxes as well as street lamps. They have worked with the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, The Computer School, the Dome Project, PS 87, and the police, offering nonviolent first time offenders an opportunity to complete their community service. They have also worked with the 20th Precinct and the Young Explorers Group.

If you don’t know, the old Beacon Paint also the recycled fluorescent bulbs at no cost to the customer for 10 years.

Beacon was probably best known for its annual walkathon, which they did for 20 years, first to benefit the Xeroderma Pigmentosum Society and then Guiding Eyes for the Blind for the last 10 years.

While the Stark Brothers no longer have store, they are still part of the neighborhood, and they still care.

Costello’s Ace Hardware sells Benjamin Moore Paints, air conditioners and plenty of personal protective equipment, and is ready to help anyone or any company, school, building or museum that needs such items. Bruce & Steven will continue to offer the personal touch that made them the winners of numerous community service awards.

They also have plans to do more clean up days, as well as getting their bosses to donate paint and supplies to paint over any graffiti in the neighborhood

You can reach them at:

Bruce- (347) 538-4050 Bstark@costellosace.com

Steven (347) 538-4020 SStark@costellosace.com

NEWS | 19 comments | permalink
    1. 71st Streeter says:

      A tradition to carry on:
      From the article:
      Mel was out every morning sweeping the sidewalk in front of the store. He loved telling the story about a man who came up to him and said, “You must be the boss,” to which Mel replied, “Why do you say that?” The man said, “Because you have a broom in your hands.”

    2. "TSNVFC" ("There's Still No Vaccine for Covid") says:

      How come no one in that photo above is wearing a mask?

      • Ishmael says:

        Because it is not a current photo. It’s in front of their old store.

      • Uwsgrl says:

        Well I’m guessing that if that’s a picture in front of the store, and the store closed in February, that means the picture is pre-Covid and pre-mask wearing. But sure, let’s make that the takeaway from this article about two local residents doing good for the neighborhood.

      • Bnyc says:

        Kids are wearing backpacks in this photo so it seems to have been taken before schools closed for the quarantine.

    3. Wijmlet says:

      Bravo, STarks!

    4. Bob Lamm says:

      I was a customer of Bruce and Steve for decades. They are the best. On an afternoon when I read in the West Side Rag that Beacon was closing THAT DAY, I immediately rushed over so I could say goodbye and thank them. Bruce was there and we had a wonderful chat. We have always been lucky to have the Starks in our neighborhood and this latest wonderful action of theirs shows that we still are.

    5. Penny says:

      These guys are not only legends, they are heroes!

    6. jill says:

      How do I contact the group who is cleaning and organizing? i’d like to help out!

    7. Catherine Holmes says:

      Thank you Bruce &Steven for your long commitment to our neighborhood- I’m sad your store had to close in February but happy to see you’re still doing your part to keep the blocks clean and inviting- more than our mayor is doing!

    8. PTFLynn says:

      I love seeing such great community spirit on display, on the UWS. Thanks Bruce and Steven

    9. Anthony Smith says:

      Wonderful UWSers!

    10. Linda & Steve says:

      The Starks are UWS treasures. I miss seeing them and their store. Always friendly and generous with their neighbors.
      The family sponsored many charitable events and I believe the photo is from one of the pre-Covid happenings.
      Thank you . What a wonderful example you set.

    11. Joe Little says:

      I served today. Worked hard and had a good time. Hadn’t served before. The friend who invited me didn’t turn up, nor would I had Costello ACE not donated bags, gloves, etc. Donated stuff: makes all the difference on earth. Thanks Bruce & Steve & Costello ACE.

    12. UWSdr says:

      What about the nice Labrador?

    13. Bruce Stark says:

      I just want to thank everyone for the kind ,kind words.We were lucky to have neighbors like you.
      The picture was last September, when we sponsored our annual Welcome back to school breakfast.

    14. Blumpkin says:

      What a great family. I will miss visiting their store and saying hi to their pup. Sad to see such a long time business forced to close.

    15. Anonymous says:

      Very nice of them to do. I know that the new and CURRENT owners of the Beacon Hardware are just as nice and are working hard to continue serving the Upper West Side community. I have recently visited their store and was pleased at how fully stocked and well organized they are. They also own another store Gartners by 72nd st.