Hardware was his game, business his name

With a loan from his father, Tommy Toteff went into the hardware business in Pontiac.
Driven by a goal of to not fail, he ultimately had four hardwares ? Pontiac, Auburn Hills, Waterford and Oxford.
The Oxford store was always managed by son Tom, with his dad’s oversight. When the three stores became one, Tommy’s office moved to Oxford.
His goal to not fail helped make him a hard worker. A fault would be that he expected every employee to work as hard as he did. He was on top of every deal, every order, every trouble and every detail.
His hours at work went uncounted. Work was his passion, as was buying and selling.
Living in Addison Township and driving through Oxford every day made having a store in Oxford a likely goal.
Around 1969, Francis Baldwin and I bought Tunstead Hardware ? then the oldest hardware store in the county (over 100 years) ? planning to keep the name and hardware alive in Oxford.
After struggling for three years, the owner of Tom’s Hardware offered to buy the store. We sold.
Later, needing more space, he moved the business to S. Lapeer Road.
Five years ago, Sherman Publications needed offices in Ortonville for our newspaper The Citizen. Tom gave us a pleasant deal on adjoining buildings he owned at the time.
Tom loved auctions and speculating on properties. He was a prolific reader of trade journals and thoroughly enjoyed the hardware business.
He could be harsh, but he could also be a softy. He would criticize local officials and others, but never to a point where he thought it might affect business. Business was always number one. He would also contribute to people, plans and programs without the public’s knowledge.
Tom upset some with his attitude, but befriended man with his generosity. One incident stands out as a testament to his character.
When Oxford Lumber burned, Tom was the first to wade through the still simmering water and debris to ask owner Jerry Olrich if there was anything he could do to help. Olrich told me this, not Toteff. They were competitors in many ways at the time.
That’s my friend Tommy Toteff. He had his strengths, he had his weaknesses, and when you had him for friend it was special.