ROXBURY, NJ – It didn’t take long on Tuesday for the Caterpillar 336E hybrid hydraulic excavator to erase most of the former Walt’s Hardware store in Kenvil, a Roxbury icon that’s stood on Route 46 since the late 1940s.
In one day of work, the machine operator reduced the imposing gray structure to a pile of rubble. Only a portion of one wall remained standing on Wednesday morning.
The demolition comes 32 months after the death of store proprietor Bob Gula, the son-in-law of Walt’s Hardware founder Walter Broda. The business was closed after Gula died in 2016 and the 6,900-square-foot building – once a busy place – remained vacant.
It, and the surrounding 1.25-acre property, were bought for $310,000 in February by 652 Route 46 Associates LLC, a company formed by Donnelly Construction of Wayne, which owns Black Rock Plaza across the road.
Contacted today, Donnelly Construction Vice President of Business Development Chris Donnelly said the company is considering its options for the site.
“Honestly, we are not sure what our game plan is,” Donnelly said. “We are kind of going to kick it out there and see if we get any hits in terms of potential tenants. For now, there’s nothing in stone, but we’re thinking retail.”
One thing is for certain, he said: The old building could not be renovated. It needed to come down.
“There was asbestos throughout the whole building,” Donnelly said. “We will build something four or five times the size. It’s a big lot.”
He said a broker will be hired to find prospective tenants, possibly within several months.