Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Tejal Patel of Snellville takes advantage of the 80% off discount at Ace Hardware in Lilburn on Friday. After 42 years of business, Ace Hardware on Five Forks Trickum Road in Lilburn is closing its doors on Saturday.
Hardware store closes after 42 years
After 42 years, the Ace Hardware in Mountain Park is closing.
LILBURN -- Mary Dansby bought a punching bag a couple years back. She dragged the heavy, sand-filled bag down to the basement but hesitated, staring up at the long, wooden beams supporting her home.
She got in her car and drove about two minutes down the road.
"I couldn't figure out where to put the punching bag where it wouldn't cause stress on the beam," Dansby said. When the folks at the Mountain Park Ace Hardware heard her dilemma, they got in their own cars and drove to her house. Not only did they show her where to install the punching bag, they assisted her in doing so.
Hearing stories like these, it's no surprise why the woman has stayed a regular customer for more than 36 years. As one of the location's most devoted and longest-standing customers, she's also one of the saddest to see it go.
On Saturday, after more than 42 years of selling hinges, latches, wires, chains, paint, belts, brooms, keys and cleaning products, the old store on Five Forks Trickum is closing its doors, a result of tough economic times.
For Dansby, it's a crushing blow.
"I've known all the people here a long time, and it just breaks my heart that they're closing," she said. "They were always there for me."
For customers like her, it wasn't the products they sold but the customer service they offered.
"It's like a small-town," she said. "You've got that small-town feeling that you can't get anywhere else. I walk in, and they say, 'hey, Mary,' or 'Hey, Ms. Dansby, how are you?'"
Fellow longtime customer Brenda Aguilar said there was "always someone to help you" at the store.
Years back, her son-in-law was having lawn mower problems and one of the employees explained to the man in detail how to fix it,
"It worked," Aguilar said. "There are so many helpful people here...it's so sad we're losing this place."
It's sad too for the employees.
"It's really tough to see it all go away," said Jeff Hitchcock, a store supervisor since 2007. "Especially seeing the store go out like this, being ripped to shreds piece by piece."
Hitchcock and other employees worked Friday during a liquidation sale where items were being sold at discounts of up to 80 percent.
Added Hitchcock: "It's a sad sight."
Despite the location's fate, Hitchcock said he was glad to have met all the loyal customers over the years.
Like Steve Mauldin, a mechanic and handyman by trade. Mauldin said prices were sometimes higher at the little hardware store, but "why not come here and pay a little more than you would at the big stores. You can't put a price on the level of service you get in a place like this."
The employees at the Mountain Park Ace, Mauldin said, "know you and trust you."
He said he doesn't look forward to driving nearly half an hour to the Ace Hardware in Tucker to buy bolts or a roll of duct tape. "It's just a shame," Mauldin said.
Store employee Lee Eldredge said he's heard the same thing all week long from customers: "they hate to see it close."
"I think what people will miss the most was the way we took care of them," Eldredge said.
"Whether it's somebody we know or not, we'll speak to them when they walk in. We ask them what they're working on or what they're building, and we take them to that area of the store and give them the products and pieces they need to do it. If they know how to do it, then fine, but if they don't we're going to tell them how to put it together and walk them through it. That's our niche."
It's no secret to Eldredge that "people like to be welcomed and well received. It's just good business and a good thing for people to do."
Store owner Charles Biddix said those are the principles on which he founded the store 42 years ago.
"We had good and loyal customers who appreciated the customer service," said Biddix who recently moved to South Carolina to start up another store. "Unfortunately, due to economic reasons we decided to close it."
Biddix said the location was the smallest Ace Hardware store in the state of Georgia. "It was a nuts-and-bolts type of hardware store," Biddix said. "And there were some local people who really did love it."
Count Dansby among them.
"I knew every one of the employees by name, and it just tears me up that they're closing," she said. "I've broke down and cried several times knowing they're leaving, and it's going to feel real empty when I drive by it everyday and see it closed down."