Ace is the Place for Me

I love Ace Hardware.

So much, in fact, that I was in an Ace Hardware store three times this week, and each time I left with exactly what I came to get, plus a couple of other things I had forgotten I needed.

Things like a six-inch, eye-bolt lag screw. Or a thermometer to hang outside the kitchen window, replacing the one I melted down when I rolled the gas grill beneath it and fired up all four burners. A twenty-foot brown extension cord. A bag of sunflower seeds for the birds. A brass hose coupler.

And it was all within a few feet of one another, not spread across five acres of concrete.

But what makes my every trip to Ace Hardware enjoyable isn’t just the fact that I invariably come away with what I needed. It’s the fact that they often have more staff walking the floor than they do customers. And they don’t have a token greeter handing me a flyer with about as much enthusiasm as I have for going clothes shopping. Their red-vested staff is right there, just inside the door, ready to become your personal shopper. You don’t have to go hunting for them; just step in the store, stand still, and count silently. It won’t take but a few seconds before one of them is asking what you need and guiding you over to it.

Yesterday I came in with a tough challenge: connect a one-inch PVC pipe to an outdoor water faucet with a flexible one-foot length of hose that could be easily disconnected by hand at the upper end, but permanently attached at the lower, all without leaking after I installed it myself — without a plumber.

It was like watching a contestant on Final Jeopardy.

He stood and he thought, and he asked a couple of questions, and he thought some more, and then we started our little journey together, from one aisle to another, trying one attachment in one bin, then adding to it one from another, the two of us, strangers just minutes earlier, now brothers with a common quest to conquer.

And we did — without a return trip back to the store an hour later.

I grew up in a town and a time before the mega-stores, the big-box behemoths that have a gazillion items, but often don’t have the staff to guide you through the maize of aisles to the one item you really need. A staff that turns over so quickly their only criteria to work there is that when you ask any of them a question, their response is the same: take the item from your hand, turn it over, and read you the label.

“I know how to read,” I patiently explain as I pull the item back. “I just wanted to know if this is what I need.”

My original hardware store back in Illinois was run by a husband and wife team, and between them they knew every item in the store. It didn’t start as an Ace Hardware store back then, but it eventually became one.

And maybe I now find myself gravitating back to my local Ace Hardware Stores because it’s as much nostalgic as it is helpful.

If so, I don’t care. It just feels good.

Until next Monday,

Make it a great Thanksgiving week!


And if you’re intrigued about taking an Arts and Crafts vacation at the Grove Park Inn for the National Arts and Crafts Conference on February 20-22, click here to print out your own brochure-agenda: