Our Town: Decatur Neighborhood hardware noted for coolness; eclecticism

The sign in the parking lot says it’s a hardware store, but the title doesn’t do justice to the shop at 1404 Scott Boulevard in Decatur. This Ace center is more akin to an old-fashioned general store, complete with antique gas pumps, ice cream and gourmet candy.

“I hear that comparison a lot,” said co-owner Dave Jones. “We like that look of a general store, too.”

The second comment the 12,000-square-foot store evokes from most shoppers is, “Cool!” Representatives of the Ace Hardware Corporation had the same reaction, and they recently named the store one of their five “coolest hardware stores in the country” for its unusual offerings and personalized service.

“We’re cool because of the eclectic mix, not only of product but also of people,” said co-owner Tony Powers, who began working at the store as a part-timer in 1985. “Over the years, our customers have helped drive our business decisions. This is evident as you walk through our store.”

The store’s look, merchandise selection and style has morphed to keep with those customers since it opened 28 years ago to serve the east side of town. Jones was part of the crew that built the store then when it was a smaller version of its present self.

“We started with lumber and power equipment,” Jones recalled. “But gradually, we decided to bring in other things. Lawn and garden items have been huge for us, and we’ve had to expand onto the property next door to make room for more plants, pots and furniture.”

While shoppers will find the heirloom seeds, barbecue grills and paint they’re looking for, they’ll also see gourmet rubs, sauces and cornbread mixes; candles, dish towels and teas; locally-made chocolate truffles; woven area rugs, glassware and cookware; wind chimes, flannel shirts and coffee mugs embossed with Scrabble tiles. An entire corner devoted to kids is stocked with art supplies, DIY birdhouses and Wiffle ball sets.

“We often have people come in here just for party favors,” said Jones. “And they don’t just come from this area; I see customers from Dunwoody, Midtown and Lawrenceville who come here because they’ve heard about us.”

Being a hardware store, there is the requisite stock of nuts, bolts, nails and handyman paraphernalia in a range of sizes and functions. But the focus is as much on connecting with customers as it is the merchandise.

“In this store, someone will walk you right to what you want and tell you how it works,” said Jones. “If you only need one, we sell you one. If a lady comes in looking for one skinny nail to hang a picture, I won’t even charge her.”

Both owners live nearby and are part of the community the store serves. That makes a difference, said Jones.

“Usually, we know the customers because they come in here all the time, and our kids have been on local teams together,” he said. “We really are a neighborhood store.”

Earning the recent accolade has brought Jones and Powers the attention of other shopkeepers who want to emulate the style the two have perfected.

“I know a lot of guys who only sell hardware, and I tell them, ‘You’re missing out!’ ” said Jones. “We didn’t set out to get recognized for what we do; we’re just trying to have fun.”

Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or call 404-514-6162.

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