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Got hardware?

Photograph of Phil Dean by Susie Biehler

FIRST PERSON | By Kim Alfaro

In the early ’70s, we moved into our shingle-sided home on Webster Street, just two blocks from St. Dominic’s Church, where we were married. Down the alley and around the corner was Fillmore Hardware, an emporium of significant importance as we embarked upon major home renovations.

The hardware store then occupied twice the space it does now. It became, for us like so many others, a major source of nuts, bolts, screws, sandpaper — all of the things that go into renovations.

Heading Fillmore Hardware was a bear of a man, Phil Dean. He was a fount of practical information. He helped my wife Susan Brady and me learn the basics of numerous trades during our projects.

One Saturday, Phil asked a person in line ahead of me if he wanted his eggs. Yes, he did. So Phil went to the cubbyhole beside the key cutting machine and produced a carton of eggs. I was amazed. Eggs seemed to me an unlikely item for an urban hardware store.

When I inquired, Phil told me he raised chickens on his Pacifica estate and sold them to a select roster of customers in the neighborhood. Sensing something special, I asked if I could buy some. He had an extra dozen, as it happened, but he explained that I would only be a provisional customer. His regulars had first dibs.

That was in the spring of 1973. Over time we became regulars, and we’ve been enjoying Farmer Phil’s marvelous eggs ever since. They are fresh — and they are so large they make the jumbo supermarket eggs look puny by comparison. They’re also multi-hued. A couple of Phil’s hens lay eggs of celadon green, while others produce various shades of brown and white.

Above all, they are absolutely delicious.

When Phil retired a few years ago, we feared it would be the end of our direct connection to the henhouse. I am happy to say that Phil has kept this aspect of his life — and ours — unchanged. He still delivers every Friday afternoon, and we collect them at the hardware store then or on Saturday morning.

For entirely selfish reasons — among many others — we wish Phil and his hens a long and healthy life.