I try to stay away from the big box stores as well, but it's getting more difficult every day.
We had a small chain of hardware stores here in NorCal called YardBirds. It was an awesome place. Great service, great people, everything I needed, but only one of everything...
Last year, they sold out to HD. HD has now turned it into a sort of "boutique" kind of store. They still sell paint, hardware, etc. but no longer carry lumber, plywood, drywall, etc. They still have the same people (hired the old YardBirds employees as HD employees), and the service is still like it used to be. It is the smallest HD store in operation, but they no longer have what I need half of the time
In fact, there is not a store in my smallish town that has those things anymore. I have to drive half an hour just to get to a big box store that carries the stuff...OR, I can drive an extra 10 minutes to go to an independent, which I do whenever I can.