Arnold H. 'Joe' Janney, 1927-2013: Businessman was revered in Trilby area


Arnold H. “Joe” Janney, who operated the family-owned hardware business founded as a general store nearly a century ago, died Sunday in Ebeid Hospice Residence, Sylvania. He was 85.

He had been in cancer treatment the last decade.

“He fared very well for most of those years,” his son, Doug, said.

Mr. Janney of Lambertville never quite retired. Janney’s Ace Hardware — known for its upside-down sign at Secor Road near Alexis Road — was a successor to the store his father and uncle started in 1918. The big hardware store eventually was run by a third generation, Mr. Janney’s sons, with Doug as president and Tim as vice president, secretary, and treasurer.

When the store closed in 2007, Tim continued in business nearby with Janney’s Service Center, which sells and repairs power equipment and screens and windows and offers locksmith and key services. Mr. Janney came in most mornings and made the bank deposits.

“He never quit working,” son Doug said. “Maybe shorter days and go on little trips and such, but he continued.”

The founding brothers in 1927 divided the store into hardware and grocery operations. Mr. Janney’s father, J. Smith Janney, opened the hardware business. Mr. Janney and his brother, Ulis, joined after World War II.

Joe Janney was made for the business, son Doug said.

“He was a smiling guy who was friendly and cordial, warm,” son Doug said. “I continue to hear people say how when they were little kids coming in with their dad or grandpa, he greeted them.

“He was genuine. Every bone was sincere," his son said. "He was interested in you, so it made him a natural for taking care of people who came to the business with wants and needs."

Mr. Janney learned the business through the day-to-day work, and he became president when his father retired.

"He was a great salesman and a good merchandiser,” his son said. “It’s a detailed type of business. We had probably 30,000 items in the store, and managing that and doing a good job at it is an ongoing effort.

“He was a great mentor for us."

The upside-down sign was suggested as an attention getter by the late-Don Brondes of nearby Brondes Ford and became an advertising slogan: “‘We're going to turn the hardware business upside down,’ ” son Doug recalled. “It was a gimmick that people enjoyed. Or didn’t. Sometimes it irritated people.”

When his sons opened a second store in Southland Shopping Center, he was supportive. A fire destroyed that outlet a year after it opened, and the family retrenched at its original location.

He was on the board of directors of Ace Hardware Corp. from 1977-1985.

He was born May 6, 1927, to Isma and J. Smith Janney. He was a graduate of Whitmer High School, where he played football and basketball. He was a member of the high school’s athletic hall of fame. He was a Navy veteran and served aboard the USS Hornet at the end of World War II.

He grew up in Trilby, the community centered at Secor and Alexis, then in Washington Township, and was a member of the volunteer fire department. His father was the first fire chief in 1927; his brother was the last when Trilby entered Toledo and the department disbanded.

He was a former president of the Trilby Chamber of Commerce. He belonged to the Trilby Rotary Club. He was a Mason and was a member of the Sylvania Pyramid Lodge.

Surviving are his wife, Mary Janney, whom he married May 10, 1947; sons, Douglas and Timothy Janney; six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 3-9 p.m. today in the Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania. Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday in the Lutheran Church of Our Savior, where he formerly served on the council.

The family suggests tributes to the church or Toledo Children’s Hospital.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.