Housing Complex

Department of Jumped Sharks: H Street NE is Too Expensive For Ace Hardware

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.

  • Campy

    Hmm, how does $35/sqft compare to other comps around the city? I don't have a frame of reference for commercial real estate but trust that its ridiculous.

    I do believe a real hardware store would kill it on H Street with all the renovation/flipping that's going on. I also would think that a hardware store is one of the types of retail that is more resilient to low foot traffic as it sells items of necessity rather than of general convenience. For instance, you make a run to the hardware store to get -stuff-, you don't drop in while wandering about from the organic/cupcake/froyo place.

  • RT

    Not that crazy, campy. Most new leases signed will be at least that in any reputable retail corridor. And much more for downtown/CH/Gtown/14th St, obviously. That said, this would likely be a larger space. Usually larger spaces have a slightly lower $/sf since there's not as much use for large spaces outside of large restaurants.

  • Goatsie

    Local hardware stores aren't for flippers. Local hardware stores are for DIYers. There is some overlap, but unless you're doing your first house, you're not paying local hardware store prices for your materials. The economics don't work.

  • npm

    "The store hasn’t adapted much to serve the neighborhood changing around it, except to start selling mobile phones."

    Actually, it's the opposite. The dozen or twenty times I've been there in the last 5 years to get hardware, they seemed to be getting most of their business from the cell phones/electronics side, and the cell-phone customers did not appear to me to be newcomers. Plus, I think they make a much bigger profit off the $20 phone card than my 79 cents worth of bolts.

  • Mrs. D

    You're right, Goat (I...refuse...). Flippers are construction professionals (mostly) or hire construction professionals to do work for them (yes, a few DIY and are good at it or f it up royally), and can navigate the 400,000 hinge options out there without professional assistance. But flipping precedes people with higher incomes who *will* patronize a local hardware store (even a new renovation needs some hardware supplies, and some people will buy non-flipped/in decent condition properties and fix them themselves). It's a great time for a hardware store to get in on the ground floor, when the flips start happening with regularity.