Saffron Supply Co. moves business after century downtown

Saffron Supply Co. is moving from its downtown location after nearly a century in the same spot. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

After spending a career in banking, Adam Stout wanted to be part of conversations about where the Salem community should go in the future.

For years, he searched for the right place. And he found it in Saffron Supply Co. – a business that has existed in Salem for more than a century.

In February 2020, he and his business partner purchased the oldest locally owned business from the third-generation owner.

“As the world before us was changing, basically we decided we wanted to do something for ourselves,” Stout said.

Now, Stout is ushering the business into its next era as it moves to 1450 Front St. N.E. near the end of this month. 

The business is moving as the city of Salem has plans to redevelop that block. ABC Music Company closed in October and the Union Gospel Mission moved its men’s mission over the summer.

Saffron Supply Co. has been at its 325 Commercial St. S.E. location since the late 1930s, Stout said.

For decades, the hardware store has served as an answer to homeowners searching for the right pipe fitting or faucet.

Customers could gaze across rows of hanging shovels, clippers or electrical cords.

Stout said the store’s location may change, but there will still be a warm, knowledgeable staff that’s willing to listen and get to the root of customer’s problems.

“That is timeless and will remain unchanged,” he said.

Stout said there’s 80 years of items squirreled away in nooks, crannies and crevices of the store.

They unearthed a two-person, 8-foot long chainsaw bar with a handle on the front.

He said they also “found a four-foot-long pipe wrench that dated back to Lord knows when.”

Saffron Supply Co. has been serving customers in Salem since 1910, when it was a salvage business. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Saffron started as a salvage scrap company that bought products by the pound and re-purposed them.

Rick Gassner, the previous owner of Saffron, said his grandfather started the business in 1910.

Isaac Saffron called it “The People’s Junk Company” and later “Capital Junk and Bargain,” before transitioning fully to plumbing and electrical supplies.

Gassner started working at the business full time in 1971.

For a long time, Gassner’s uncle ran the store “doing business like it was the 1950s and 60s.”

He said they were slow to get computerized and struggled to compete against Internet retailers.

Looking back, he said customer service was always the number one goal.

He’d have customers stop in just to greet him.

“They’d stay three to five minutes talking sports or whatever just to say hello and leave,” he said.

Stout said Saffron essentially built parts of Salem, from the pipe fittings to everything else that went inside buildings.

He said the most rewarding feeling is when a customer comes in and is able to solve their dilemma through help from staff. 

Brooms, shovels and other tools hang on the wall in Saffron Supply Co. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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