Photo | facebook.com/EasternShoreAceHardware
Best Hardware Store – Baldwin: Eastern Shore Ace Hardware
BY ALYSON SHEPPARD
Sometimes you don’t need 50 wall screws. You just need one. That’s why Eastern Shore Ace Hardware – voted by Lagniappe readers as “Best Hardware Store – Baldwin” – sells them individually. It’s a small but thoughtful service that owner Steve Ascik says doesn’t go unnoticed by his customers.
“Not a day goes by still where someone doesn’t come to the counter and say, ‘We’re so glad you’re here,’” he said. “We give them personal attention that they can’t get at the big-box store.”
Ascik opened the Spanish Fort store at 6530 Spanish Fort Blvd. in December 2015 and says he’s been overwhelmed by the positive reception. Especially because he came from the corporate world, having just “researched the heck out of” the hardware store business before investing his life savings into one.
He decided to focus his Ace on providing niche services and products to the community. For example, the Eastern Shore store has a wide variety of hard-to-find grills such as Big Green Egg and Traeger, which you can only purchase through small, authorized dealers like him. On the weekends the store fires them up and cooks pizza, street tacos or barbecue, handing out samples to customers. “We aren’t high pressure. We just have fun,” he said.
And being located only 8 miles from the Ace distribution center in Loxley means that if the store doesn’t have something a customer is looking for, they can often get it later that day or the next.
The hardware store is also deeply involved with charities and local schools, donating supplies and funds to booster clubs and athletic teams. (Ascik’s wife works at Bayside Academy.) The store even adopted a special-needs class and welcomes students inside to mix paint and pick out a seedling to plant in their home gardens. And every August the store hosts a “bucket sale” to raise funds for the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital.
Store employees are experts in a wide variety of categories and include multiple master gardeners and a beekeeper. Many of Ascik’s workers are retired; they just like to come in and chat, much like the customers do. In fact, he sees a lot of the same faces every day: city maintenance workers and restaurant employees looking for tools, and local homeowners, who just like to stroll through the aisles and make friends.
“We have one customer who brings us jambalaya. I have no idea why. He just likes to come in and hang out with us,” Ascik says. “You find yourself talking about everything. It only takes a minute to listen.”
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