Peebles business moves to new location –
By Patricia Beech –
In today’s age of big-box stores, many family owned and operated small businesses have been forced to close their doors.
But in Peebles, one store has withstood the megastore onslaught that wiped out the mom-and-pop shops.
Wallingford’s Ace Hardware has not only kept its doors open for 36 years, it has expanded and relocated to a larger commercial building at the corner of Main Street and Rarden Road in Peebles.
Charlie Wallingford has owned and operated the hardware store since 1981.
He says the move to a new building has been a long time in the making.
“We’ve had an eye on this location for several years, but this year we were able to make it happen,” he says. “It’s a much nicer building, with more space and better lighting and much more contemporary than the old store.”
The nearly 6,000 square foot building is double the size and holds four times more inventory than Wallingford’s original store.
He says customer response to the new location has been very positive.
“It’s been amazing, we’ve been really busy, and almost every customer that’s come in says this is the greatest thing, they are so happy.”
“No one has been disgruntled,” says Wallingford’s wife, Pam. “If Charlie had to run to the old store to get merchandise, the customers waited while he ran back and forth, and really, no one complained.”
Wallingford takes a broader view of his customers’ good will.
“We didn’t make this move just for us, we did this for the community, we really did, and it’s worked out well because of that,” he says. “This store is something the community can be proud of, I think that’s why we’ve got so much positive feedback from everyone.”
Despite competition from big stores, the Wallingford’s are confident that the one-on-one service they provide and the 36 years of expertise they offer will make for a shopping experience that corporate stores can’t match.
Customers may enter the store as strangers, but they leave as friends, and some may even stay to chat with the “loafers” who pop in each day to catch up on local news and happenings.
“Good customer service and good people,” says Wallingford. “That’s what made us successful, that’s why we’re still here.”
“And you were here in the store,” says his son Brad. “You have to be present to make a business last, and Dad was always here in the store working.”
The younger Wallingford joined the family business three years ago and plans to take up the reins when his father retires. He says he will carry on the tradition of quality customer care.
“That kind of personalized customer service is what sets our business apart,” he says. “We know the people we deal with, and the people we deal with know we care.”
Smaller stores like Wallingford’s often bank on the strength of a knowledgeable staff who know the products and can help with customer questions. Anticipating a future move to a larger space, Wallingford last summer added an additional employee to his staff, and says he may need to hire additional help later in the year.
“We have four times the amount of merchandise, so we wanted to be sure we had time to train a new employee before we began the move.”
Moving an entire store from one location to another is no small task
The Ace Hardware corporate office stepped in to assist the Wallingfords. Workers measured the building, drew up a floor plan, put up shelves and fixtures, and stocked new products, but the Wallingfords were responsible for moving merchandise from the old store to the new.
“We’d close up the store at 6 o’clock, then go work in the new building until 9 or 10,” says Wallingford, “We’re still in the process and there’s a lot of work to do and it’s hard job, but we’re getting there.”
The new store is not only more spacious, it is stocked to the brim on shelving that accommodates a surprising amount of merchandise.
“We added many product categories, so we now have a much wider selection,” said Wallingford, “Everything is clean, visible, and easy to shop, and we have three times the merchandise in the same space because of the new sliding display panels.”
While the new store definitely gives local consumers more options, and an improved shopping experience, Wallingford says, “The nicest thing is the response from the community. They’re really happy that we’re here, and that’s an amazing feeling.”