Madrid’s former industrial zone (the area between Lavapiés and the river) is where many of the city’s original hardware shops can still be found plodding along after more than a hundred years of success. Carpenters, blacksmiths, scrap-metal dealers and screw shops are just as alive as the day they served their first customer, including one famous 123-year-old spring shop.
Muelles Ros, which sells exclusively springs, has been run by the same family for three generations, since 1894. Every spring has a reference number going into the thousands, and the owner knows each one and where it is in the shop. I asked, and so he explained and showed me that there are various types of springs: tension, torsion and compression, just to name a few. The place is jaw-dropping. I’d never contemplated the detail in the design of springs, or how big, thick, delicate or complex they come.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
It’s probable, however, that this is the last generation to keep the shop running. Highly educated heirs inherit their forefathers’ hardware stores but often prefer other lines of work, meaning the business will likely be sold on.
That said, for those businesses that don’t die with their owner, shops such as “Gran Bazaares”, supermarkets and mega-stores in the outskirts are steadily replacing these specialist shops, triggering a decline in city-centre hardware stores, and even worse: forfeiting specialist knowledge.
For now, this impressive spring shop is standing the test of time and, according to the owner, business is going well. They receive customers from all over Madrid – mostly businesses but also handymen (manitas) and fashion students.
Let’s not underestimate the importance of local businesses. They provide human contact, something we’re gradually treating as an inconvenience. They’re also part of the world we love in theory: they offer a convenience we didn’t realise we still had. Above all, local businesses are the fabric of a city, and supporting them will help keep Madrid Madrid.