Omnia hardwara District of Columbiana in duas partes divisa est. First, there’s the Home Depot just off Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast. Incomplete inventory, unserviceable customer service, long lines at the register—never has there been a more automatic scratch from the Best-Hardware contenders card.

Then there’s the real competition, which takes place among the various shops associated with major national hardware names Ace and TrueValue. On this front, entrepreneurial activity has picked up significantly in recent years, to the eternal benefit of D.C. communities.

Much of the risk—and reward—has been borne by Gina Schaefer, owner of three gentrification-era Ace hardware stores around town. Schaefer’s outlets in Logan Circle, Tenleytown, and Glover Park are fine establishments with polite and well-informed employees. The inventory is complete and well-organized; if the store doesn’t have what you want, take it up with a customer care representative—chances are that the precious item can be ordered and in hand in no time.