I wrote about hardware stores in this week’s column, and naturally, a few bits wouldn’t fit.
Capitol Locksmith on Georgia Avenue isn’t the only store in the path of a new Ace Hardware. When I walked into Park’s Hardware at 910 H Street NE, Grace Park was busy filling an order behind the counter, and blanched when I mentioned I was writing about Ace—-she’d heard the rumor about Gina Schaefer thinking about moving in a few doors down.
“We already have a hardware store,” Park said, fearfully. “Why do we need a new hardware store?” They’d survived the opening of Home Depot two miles away in 2002, but a thoroughly modern Ace might spell the end.
Turns out Park has nothing to be afraid of, for the moment—-Schaefer decided that $35 per square foot was too much to pay for the old Fashion One at a time when daytime foot traffic is still fairly anemic, and hasn’t been able to find another space as big as she needs (it might arrive in one of the many new developments in the works for the strip). “Not right now,” Schaefer says. “Not for the cost.”
It wasn’t because she thought Park’s would provide much competition, though, or that it was as beloved as, say, Fragers on Capitol Hill. Shelves are unevenly stocked and still priced with orange stickers. The store hasn’t adapted much to serve the neighborhood changing around it, except to start selling mobile phones.
“If we really felt like we were the evil retailer moving in, I don’t want to be that person,” Schaefer says (she’s nearing a deal for another location in the District, but couldn’t say where). “They are in the perfect location to take advantage of what’s going on on H Street. If they renovated now, they could really catch a great wave.”
It might be someone else’s job to take on, though. Owner Ki Park tried to sell the building a couple of years ago, but couldn’t get the price he wanted, and figures the value will just keep going up—-playing the waiting game, like everyone else.