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Story - News

Nov 19, 2012 7:17 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Henry, Hairy Hardware Store 'Mascot' In Sag Harbor, Dies

Nov 20, 2012 1:46 PM

For a dozen years, a friendly yellow Labrador retriever named Henry happily greeted customers at Henry Persan & Sons Hardware in Sag Harbor, from his favorite spot right atop the counter, paw hanging over the edge.

His big brown eyes, floppy blond ears and docile personality endeared him to those looking to buy widgets, waxes and wire strippers—or, sometimes, nothing at all.

“People literally would come in, not to buy anything, but just to see how he was doing and sometimes give him a treat,” manager Gene Phillips recalled last Thursday, as he stood behind the counter, now conspicuously lacking the de facto store mascot.

Henry died on Sunday, November 11, at the age of 12, according to store owner Bob Persan, who, along with his wife, Jessie, owned him. However ironic, Henry died from an enlarged heart.

“It’s amazing how emotional people can get,” observed Mr. Persan, who acknowledged his own sadness at Henry’s demise. He has already received at least two sympathy cards since Henry’s passing. One, from a local retiree in his 70s, featured a close-up of a dog’s head lying on the floor, looking up expectantly. The other, which had just been dropped off by two girls, showed a dog’s paw prints in the sand, receding into the distance, where the waves wash ashore. He taped both cards to a door frame. “There’s a lot of animal lovers out here,” he said.

Taped to a container of lip balm on the counter is a photograph of Henry perched on the countertop looking directly toward the camera, head cocked slightly to the side and right paw dangling over the edge. Posted on a nearby display case of router bits is a notice Mr. Persan posted to inform Henry’s fans of the news, telling them they would miss their “PR man,” who would joyfully jump into the car at the sound of “Wanna go to the store?”

Henry, who was born in Amagansett, spent most of his life in the hardware store and is named after the business’s founder, Henry Persan, Bob Persan’s grandfather.

His habit of occupying the countertop started when he was a puppy, when staff would “plop” him there in an effort to prevent him from wandering outside when customers opened the door, Mr. Persan explained. It was a habit he and his employees did not encourage as Henry got older, he said, but the behavior had already been ingrained, and as the Lab got bigger he would leap onto the roughly 3-foot-tall countertop and simply hang out.

One of his other favorite spots was by the door, where he would lean against the glass and recognize his favorite customers’ cars.

“When certain cars pulled into the parking lot, he’d jump to his feet and wag his tail at the door because he knew,” Mr. Persan said. “He was a sweetheart of a dog. He was all love.”

He was cute, too. “Women of substance would come in and just get down on their knees and kiss him,” Mr. Persan said.

Henry was an ideal dog to have around the store because he was, as Labs are, non-aggressive, he said. Mr. Persan has another dog at home, an 8-year-old German shepherd named Greta, whom he called a “black-faced wolf dog.” Greta, he said, was not a dog to bring out into public. She barks, he said.

So it was the mild-mannered Henry who became the store celebrity, his status surpassing even those of staffers. “He was liked more than anyone else in this store,” said clerk Felix McGibbon. “No one asked for me, but they always asked for Henry.”

Customers who filtered in and out of the store last Thursday expressed sadness when Mr. Persan told them what happened to the countertop canine.

“Awww,” said Deering Yardley, who stopped in asking for night lights. “I usually come in with little tidbits to give the dog,” he said, pulling a crumbled piece of dog biscuit from his pocket.

“I never saw a dog with such a sweet temperament. His temperament was just fantastic,” said customer Edward Gentile. “Some dogs, you wonder, ‘Is that dog friendly?’ You never felt that way with him, even if you were a stranger and you never saw him before.”

Frank DePalo, a customer who also used to work at the store, called him the “company dog.” “When you walked in, you felt it was a homey-type store,” he said of the atmosphere Henry helped make.

Henry’s body now rests in peace, buried deeply in the Persans’ Noyac backyard, and Mr. Persan said it was too soon for them to start talking about another dog. For a little while longer, the talk would focus on Henry.

“He loved everybody,” he said. “He was a very happy dog.”

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my heart goes out to the owners. it was so nice to go in there and see him laying around on the floor all the time
By 5-0 (44), Montauk Point on Nov 19, 12 2:56 PM
Sincere condolences. Dogs are so special.
By Toto (25), southampton on Nov 19, 12 3:04 PM
Lovely, well told story. Nicely done. Sad.
By paulampeterson (9), Southampton on Nov 19, 12 5:23 PM
RIP Henry. You will surely be missed.
By carpntir (2), southampton on Nov 20, 12 5:57 AM
Finding a pet at a business is always a pleasant surprise - whether it's a cat in a bookstore, or dog in a hardware store. Henry was special & will truly be missed.
By Ms. Jane Q. Public (147), Southampton on Nov 20, 12 3:41 PM
Henry was a great dog. Tough time for Bob and family i'm sure.
By Spikeland67 (25), Sag Harbor on Nov 20, 12 4:03 PM
The Hampton Classic, Horse Show, Bridgehampton