FALMOUTH — A little over a year ago, battered by the recession and a downturn in the high-end home construction market, Nick Harding closed Decorum, his once-thriving specialty hardware store on Commercial Street in Portland.

It was a difficult decision, born from a desire to avoid bankruptcy and the hope that the 31-year-old business might re-emerge stronger at a different location.

“We tried to keep it going for two years,” Harding said, “but we got so far in the hole, we couldn’t get out without going through bankruptcy or going out of business.”

In May 2010, he sold the last of Decorum’s inventory, closed the store and moved the custom lighting portion of the business, Nostalgia Lighting, into a rustic red building at 234 Middle Road in Falmouth. He restructured his business and personal finances to pay off just about everyone he owed, sold his house in Cumberland and moved into an apartment on Portland’s Munjoy Hill.

Harding’s plan allowed him to avoid financial ruin, rebuild the business and resurrect Decorum Specialty Hardware & Lighting at the Route 9 location. It’s a prime spot at the Bucknam Road intersection, just off Exit 10 of Interstate 295. A new sign announcing the rebirth of the business will go up in the next few weeks.

“We’re positioned better here for the market we serve,” Harding said. “Downtown Portland is great and we miss it, but as a destination business, this is a much better location.”

The three-room store on Middle Road is a lot smaller than the two-floor operation in Portland. That’s a plus while the business continues to weather an uncertain economy, Harding said. He also reduced his staff from nine people to three, counting himself, office manager Brian Kinney and Burr Chase, lightsmith of Nostalgia Lighting.

Still, the store is large enough to display examples of the door and cabinet hardware, bathroom fixtures and lighting that Dale Bragg and other Decorum customers seek. Bragg’s Yarmouth company builds million-dollar homes throughout Greater Portland.

“I’ve been working with Nick for about 30 years,” Bragg said. “We only use the best materials and they supply the door hardware on every job I do. It’s nice dealing with Nick because he knows more than I do. They’re experts at sales and service.”

Decorum still features products made in the United States, including Northeast Lighting and Baldwin door hardware. Because of limited space, most fixtures are custom ordered from stacks of catalogs. They cater to builders and restorers of seaside, cottage, classic and contemporary homes.

If Decorum continues to thrive, Harding hopes to hire an additional salesperson next year and possibly expand the showroom in the future. He’s confident in the business plan that got him this far.

“We survived the economic crunch and we’re coming back,” he said.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]