Ace plans October opening of new store in West Wind Center

       Little did the owners of McKinzey-White know, when they opened their bookstore in 2000, that five years later their design would be perfect for a hardware store.
       Say again?
       Darek Barnes, who also owns the other two Ace stores in Colorado Springs, is ecstatic about the design, the size and the amenities of what will become the Westside's new Ace Hardware store in the West Wind Center, 4201 Centennial Blvd.
       The opening is scheduled for mid- to late October. The Westside store formerly leased space in the Uintah Gardens shopping center. Rather than pay a steep rent increase, Barnes closed that store in mid-June - saying he would seek another Westside location.
       His eyes fell on the 13,500 square-foot McKinzey-White building - somewhat bigger than the old store's 11,000 square feet - which had been vacant since the bookselling chain pulled out in 2002. The purchase price was $1.05 million, with the loan worked out by the Pikes Peak Regional Development Corporation through the Small Business Administration.
       “Everything is just so nice here, top quality,” he said. “It's so cheery, bright and airy. It's almost a new building. I know our customers are going to like it.”
       At first, Barnes considered just gutting the interior and putting in a standard Ace layout. But the more he looked at the upscale touches the bookstore had left behind, the more he saw possibilities for a unique hardware facility.
       One example is the neatly crafted front counter, which Barnes estimated would have cost $8,000 to have made. There is also the broad, red-tiled walkway past the counter and into the central part of the store. “You'd never put that in for a new hardware store,” he said. “You couldn't make back the investment.”
       Then there's the adjoining space at the front left that used to be the bookstore's coffee shop. It will become the paint area. Not only can the coffee shop's plumbing hook up to a wash sink for handling paint spills, the curved, hanging design below the ceiling should mesh with the shape of the Ace-style paint counter that will be going in later, Barnes said.
       A fireplace on the right side, near the front, will add to the décor of the grill and patio area. A mezzanine at the rear will be used for a range of housewares. The high ceilings give a sense of space. And the here-and-there stylishly angled walls can be used for imaginative displays, Barnes pointed out.
       He is also enthusiastic about the West Wind Center location, which puts him in the midst of an area that has mostly newer homes (The 1960s-era Holland Park is the oldest neighborhood north of Fillmore Street) and no hardware stores in the vicinity.
       As for many of his previous customers - those needing hardware for houses dating back to 1900 and earlier - Barnes said the Bon shopping center Ace (north of downtown) is now intended as the franchise's “niche store” for that genre.
       However, such Westsiders may be pleased to know that Barnes has retained the Uintah stock of older plumbing parts and nuts and bolts and will put it in the West Wind store.
       Ace's Uintah Gardens closure, by coincidence, occurred almost simultaneously with that of the other longtime Westside hardware store, Baker's Best. The result is that since mid-June, the Westside has been without a hardware store.
       The Ace franchise for Colorado Springs has been in Barnes' family since 1979, he said.

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