Internet commerce was already doing a number on brick and mortar retailers well before COVID-19 began wreaking havoc on local businesses this spring.
Still, one local couple is moving forward with plans to bring back a familiar name once synonymous with Main Street America.
Only this time Ace Hardware will be located on the other end of Main Street Hendersonville.
Owners Greg and Christa Yandell had planned to open the Hendersonville Ace Hardware beside the former Aldi at 500 West Main Street by mid-July. But like so many things affected by a global pandemic, the store’s opening date has been pushed back to mid-September.
“We should have already been open by now,” said Greg Yandell. “COVID-19 has definitely impacted not just our opening but also the amount of inventory we’ll have when we do open. It’s the same situation at other places right now. This has affected everyone’s inventory because so many plants are closed.”
Yandell says the couple plans to open with as much stock as they can, and will continue to add to it as more becomes available. He was just notified last week, for example, that they won’t be able to get Toro lawn mowers until next spring.
Despite the setbacks, the two are excited about bringing the Ace brand back to Hendersonville. The store was a staple in the community for years on the corner of Old Shackle Island Road and Main Street before moving to a strip mall just west of Sanders Ferry Road.
The Ace Hardware corporation announced the closing of five of its Middle Tennessee stores in August of 2017, including the one in Hendersonville. A cooperative and not a franchise, each Ace Hardware is locally owned and reflects its local community with its product offerings, Yandell noted.
“Every Ace Hardware is unique to its market place,” he said. “As we figure out what our customer base wants, we have an option to bring in items that meet the needs of our local market.”
While the store will sell the staples of any hardware store like hammers, screws, lawnmowers, and weed eaters, it will also carry a substantial amount of unique gift items and feature a 6,500-square-feet lawn and garden center.
Yandell says the store will cater to three target groups: do-it-yourself homeowners; local contractors and tradesmen; and customers looking for unique gifts and home décor.
“We want it be a very unique shopping experience,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of diversity in the store that will appeal to a variety of shoppers.”
Christa says she’s been busy meeting one-on-one with Middle Tennessee vendors.
“I haven’t gone to market because of COVID-19,” she said. “It kind of just detoured us to do things a different way.”
Offerings will include items not found in other local stores.
“I shop all the gift stores around here myself and I don’t want to step on their toes,” she said.
The store will feature a gift registry for couples as well.
“As a couple comes in, they’ll be able to pick out gifts, home décor and of course tools,” Greg added. “Every home needs tools.”
A sense of community and revitalization
And of course, customer service will be a focal point.
“Within two minutes, we want to ask you, ‘is there anything we can help you with today?’” he said. “You can’t get that from shopping on the Internet – that specialized help with a certain tool or part.”
The couple has had some practice serving local customers recently – albeit in a different type of business.
Owners of the local diner the Red Rooster for nearly two years, they hope to bring that same sense of community to their new retail venture.
“I bought the Red Rooster because I firmly believe that every town needs a local community diner,” Greg said. “Friends meet here every single day.”
He points to one table where he says a group of men have been coming every day for the last eight years.
“This isn’t just a restaurant,” he added. “This is about the community doing life in a social environment. And Ace Hardware is a lot like that.”
The couple also point out that the new store, like their restaurant, is located in the older part of Hendersonville that has been somewhat neglected. They’re hoping to help change that.
“For so many years the focus has been on the Indian Lake corridor,” said Greg. “This end of town is a lifeblood for Hendersonville. My hope is that once people see that there’s a brand-new Ace Hardware - that people will see that this end of town really has some golden opportunities.
“This is going to be, I think, one of the cornerstones to help us revitalize this end of town.”