How long has it been since we had a full scale hardware store close to downtown Buffalo? I mean one with all the tools that you need and endless services to boot? To tell you the truth, I can’t remember. When I first heard that an Ace Hardware was opening in an old brick horse barn on Summer Street next to Schuele Paint Company (Benjamin Moore), I couldn’t help but get excited. Being a customer of Schuele for most of my life, I couldn’t imagine a better fit. It turns out the President of Schuele, Paul Leahey, reached out to Ace Hardware years ago, but nothing ever came of it because Ace was only interested in opening big box stores that didn’t fit the city’s footprint profile. So Paul concentrated on his paint store and played the waiting game. “I always knew that a hardware store would be a good fit,” he told me. “Years ago, when I was out west on vacation, I found myself in a small town, and at the center of town was a great hardware store. It was the hub of activity. I knew then that that was the future of my business.”
It wasn’t until Ace announced that it would be opening an Ace Express format that Paul finally realized that the time had finally come. “Up until this point I have been sending my paint customers to hardware stores twenty minutes away,” Paul, who purchased the paint company eighteen years earlier, explained. “Their faces told the whole story. They wanted to shop in the neighborhood, but they couldn’t. This new store is dedicated to the urbanites who stuck it out. It’s a vindication of sorts. This is something tangible – it’s going to be a first class hardware store. Already my paint customers are as excited as I am. It’s going to be very convenient for any of our existing customers too. Since Benjamin Moore has a co-op relationship withe the Ace store (Benjamin owns stock in Ace), the stores will seamlessly act as one, although they might appear to be different.”
The new Ace Hardware store will reside in a 3000+ sq,’ building – originally a horse barn used in conjunction with the fire and police department (now Schuele Paint). The small, now filled-in window boxes provided the horses with ventilation. The original wood ceiling beams will remain, as will the brick in key locations. There will be 20,000 items in stock at any given time. Anything that is not in stock can be ordered on the Ace Hardware website and picked up at the store. Services that will be offered include key cutting, screen repair, glass cutting, window repair and lawnmower blade sharpening. There will also be a convenience lumber section and… get this… an outdoor garden center on the side of the building (look for the green and white striped awning). The total cost of the project is estimated at half a million dollars.
The Ace Express format is a brand new concept that the company developed for urban locations, and Buffalo will have only the second one built in the country. The store is designed to accommodate a huge inventory that is not far off merchandise-wise from one of the larger Ace stores. By optimizing space and using all of the walls to capacity, Ace is able to deliver a vast number of items without appearing overly congested. Not to say that 3000 sq’ is a small space. It’s not. Basically, the thought is to get back to the way hardware stores looked and felt a long time ago. Yes, there are a lot more products available today, but display capabilities have also come a long way. “We always knew that there was a need for a hardware store here,” Paul said with a smile. “I am happy to finally be able to say that the time has come.” The store will be open to the public on May 26, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. After that it will be open seven days a week.