How Intown Ace Plans to Adapt to Walmart

Check out this most excellent article on Saporta Report by Decatur-based freelance writer Michelle Hiskey about how Intown Ace Hardware plans to adapt to a commercial landscape with a Walmart just around the corner at Suburban Plaza.  Here’s a snippet…

Across the road from the planned development, Tony Powers keeps the keen eye and taste that has made his family business – Intown Ace Hardware – survive and succeed. As the world gets more homogeneous, his answer is a more diverse identity.

“I never thought I would have a hardware store with two lines of perfume and seven lines of organic candles,” he said. “Costume jewelry is also hot. I never thought this would be who we are.”

Photo courtesy of Intown Ace Hardware’s website

73 thoughts on “How Intown Ace Plans to Adapt to Walmart”

  1. The Decatur ACE Hardware and the one on Howell Mill are great ACE stores. The one on Cheshire Bridge (now closed) was a complete nightmare. It seems like the ones that do well keep the aisles wide and clear and keep the merchandise fresh. The ones that fail turn into what could best be described as a cross between a horder’s home and a flea market.

  2. That ACE is going to have nothing to worry about. No one shops there based on price, which I am often reminded of when I think to comparison shop at Home Depot after (dammit) I have bought something at ACE. It’s all about the complimentary popcorn (“You are sooo good looking”).

  3. Intown Ace is really a high quality general store for Decatur. I birthday shop there! Plus the customer service is great. I can pick up 6 critical items for 6 completely different spheres of my life there–birthday, laundry, garden, lighting, decor, and crafts, e.g.–in 15 minutes. In Walmart, it would take me 2 hours of wandering, trying to find someone to assist me, and waiting at the cashier.

  4. Meanwhile, Smith’s Ace hardware on College seems to be fading…. I remember when I used to be able to count on getting I needed there, at least in terms of classic hardware goods. What’s up there?

    1. You mean the one actually in Decatur? 🙂

      Maybe because everyone in Decatur goes to Intown? I don’t shop at either, personally.

      1. Unfortunately, I try to shop at Smith Ace, and every time I do I end up going to Intown to get what I need.

        1. I did exactly that this weekend. Wheat straw was the order of the day. “sorry, we’re out” so off to In Town I went.

    2. Smith’s Ace used to be my go-to store. I own an older home and they always had the stuff I needed to deal with home repairs and projects. Plus the knowledgeable staff to help me figure out what I needed when I’d walk in with a broken plumbing fitting in one hand and a pipe in the other. As those guys have slowly left the store and the inventory drastically depleted, I started going to Intown instead. I just made the trip to Smith’s and came out empty-handed a few too many times.

      1. Good news! Smith’s Ace is looking promising again– with stock and staff! I’ve made 3 runs over there the past 2 weeks, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised each time.

  5. LOVE that Ace! I actually ENJOY shopping at this hardware store. They know their Decatur market and have friendly and knowledgeable employees. I can’t quit you, Ace!

  6. If Ace can service home depot I have no doubt they will survive Wall-Mart. Their merchandise is so much better and their service is spectacular!

  7. ACE is also the only place that I have found that services Stihl yard equipment. As nice as a Stihl leaf blower is, it needs a lot of tending.

  8. I’ve only been shopping at this ACE for a few years, but in that time they have gone out of their way numerous times to help me. They’ve found discontinued patio chairs in warehouses around the country so I could have matching furniture, delivered items to my nearby house for free, and have delivered excellent customer service every time I’ve gone there. I’m committed to this store, and I hope that others will be after Wal-Mart opens around the corner. On a related note, I wholly support Decatur’s mayor in his efforts to stop Wal-Mart from coming to Suburban Plaza. May be an impossible fight, but he’s showed way more guts than the Dekalb County Commissioners on this.

    1. I think this needs a bit of clarification, JC. As best I’ve been able to tell, Mayor Floyd was outspoken that he doesn’t particularly care for Walmart and doesn’t feel that conventional big box development is in Decatur’s best interests, but he’s not doing anything to fight the store coming to Suburban Plaza.

      While the city is eyeing annexation of that area, it will only impact future development. Even if they did it tomorrow, it would have no effect on Walmart’s development.

          1. Well yeah of course, but you have to admit it appears hypocritical to say something sucks and be totally opposed to it, but as long as we have it, let’s get as rich as we can off of it.

              1. I guess it depends on what, whatever sucks actually is. But in the case of Walmart, the argument against them is on moral grounds, that they are exploitative. So having this attitude of moral superiority, and then using this supposed exploitation for advantage and profit, comes off as hypocritical.

                1. Hmm…but it’s not like he would be doing it for his own personal profit. I mean, not really. Seems to me like it’s more like, I may have a moral objection – though I’m not sure the mayor ever said anything that extreme – but this move is for the greater good of Decatur – both in terms of revenue and to control the types of development around the Walmart. Is that really hypocritical or just pragmatic?

                  1. It’s both I think. As we all know, doing what’s good for the bottom line, doesn’t equate to doing the right thing.

                    As for the greater good of Decatur, more money and controlling development is obviously favorable. But I’m more inclined to believe it’s about the tax revenue, and anything else good that comes of it, is just gravy. If we were solely discussing annexing Suburban, the controlling development argument may have more weight. But we’re talking about annexing the Publix center here too, which doesn’t share similarities with Suburban, other than it would be a great tax generator, with little accompanying residential property in the way. There are some ethical issues associated with these actions, that we should be considering.

                    And I’m actually curious to see how the annexation bids will play out, among the many “say no to Walmart” in the nearby unincorporated Dekalb crowd. That should be interesting to watch.

                    1. Hmm…so because the Mayor isn’t “a big fan of Walmart”, he shouldn’t consider annexing the property? What if the majority of his constituents are fans of Walmart but he isn’t? Should he only be annexing commercial property where he’s a “fan” of the current occupant? That seems a dangerous and odd precedent.

                      I certainly see where your coming from, but it seems a bit too broad brush to turn a mayor’s comment of “I’m not a big fan of Walmart” into he and the majority of his constituents have unresolvable issues with Walmart, and therefore any attempt to annex a commercial property that currently includes a Walmart – but isn’t owned by Walmart – is hypocritical.

                      Now of course, you can certainly point out that the City of Decatur is definitely biased towards certain types of businesses (local, indie) and therefore it’s a bit surprising that we’d be pulling in businesses we’re typically not in favor of, but you haven’t said that yet. And then I’d probably have to go back to the hypocritical or just pragmatic question! 😉

                    2. Not a fan of Walmart sounds like an understatement based on what I have read, it’s been my impression that he supports Good Growth Dekalb. And he doesn’t strike me as the type of person to do something opposite of what he believed citizens wanted, that’s good. But the problem with using the vocal “anti” sentiment as a gauge is that most people who don’t care, aren’t calling him, or stopping him on the street.

                      So maybe it’s a broad brush, but I think it works because leaving the money on the table is an option. If you’re truly opposed to something, then walk the walk. Nevada doesn’t tax brothels because they don’t believe Timmy’s school books should be bought with proceeds from (insert salacious act here.) I mean, if the argument is that Walmart exploits workers here and abroad, and is going to put hundreds out of business in this city and elsewhere, it seems a little silly to say, well, as long as our city and kids benefit from it, then we can learn to live with it.

                      As far as pulling Walmart in and disrupting the indie vibe/reputation, that’s not a real concern to anyone is it? It will be an island of commercial property outside of city lines, as will be the case with the Publix center, nothing more than Decatur in name only.

                      I’m purposely ignoring the precedent setting of only annexing things you like, because there’s nothing nearby as distasteful to some as a Walmart to annex (gun shop, adult entertainment, slaughterhouse, etc…) And going broader would just be too time consuming at the moment, maybe I’ll give that a go later.

              2. If the mayor wants to take something from DeKalb, how about some single-family neighborhoods that don’t produce sufficient tax dollars to pay for themselves.

                  1. Apparently the mayor doesn’t care about the reckless impact of his proposal upon DeKalb’s finances.

                    1. Should he? Does DeKalb consider Decatur’s finances when it makes decisions? I believe they withheld $10 million in HOST funding from Decatur recently. That seems sorta “reckless” too if we’re holding other municipalities responsible for each others finances.

                    2. Municipal government is a competitive sport and there’s nothing “reckless” about playing. This is about competition — the leveraging of resources and strengths to gain advantage. Mayor Floyd speaks and acts on behalf of the citizens of Decatur, just as Burrell Ellis acts on behalf of county residents. It’s both of their jobs to best position their constituents for the future. Nothing hypocritical about it.

                      That’s not saying there’s not those who benefit or lose out in the course of these transactions. It’s saying that it’s unrealistic to expect a scenario where that’s not the reality. Right now, a sizable population of DeKalb county does not feel they’re receiving value for their tax dollar, making them amenable to better offers. If Decatur wants to woo certain property owners into the city limits by demonstrating greater value potential in terms of returns or process efficiencies, so be it. Game on.

                    3. Mayor Floyd isn’t engaged in competition. He is engaged in poaching. These commercial property owners aren’t going to voluntarily join Decatur because of superior services; they’re going to be taken by legislation passed against their collective will. It is in the best interest of all DeKalb residents and that includes the cities, to have a healthy DeKalb County. Many folks around the General Assembly are suspicious of Mayor Floyd’support for the proposed city of Brookhaven. Did he cut a deal with Mike Jacobs for easier annexation laws?

                    4. Counties were never set up to provide municipal services anyway. If/when a piece of property is incorporated or annexed the county STILL gets tax revenue from it. It merely ceases to provide municipal type services and stops assessing a special service district tax to provide those services.

      1. There’s really nothing the Mayor can do to “fight” WM. It’s in the County for the present, conforms to County zoning and the County has given the necessary variance approvals.

        1. From my understanding, Mayor Floyd wants to position the city of Decatur so we can properly zone areas so the city can protect areas they want to protect, and prevent big box retailers or their “ilk” to seap into the city limits. In the case of Suburban Plaza, he can do nothing–we’re a bit late for that bandwagon…but we can learn from the experience and move forward with a positive zoning plan that minimally impacts city businesses and residences.

      2. Thanks Scott, I think that’s a good point. However, I sort of get the feeling that the mayor would also like to get hold of Suburban Plaza because you never know what’s going to happen. For example, let’s say Wal-Mart is suddenly involved in a Mexican bribery scandal and their stock goes down. And then let’s say they pull back on their expansion plans for another year to get their house in order. Who knows what the city could negotiate in that time with the owners of Suburban Plaza?

  9. The best Ace is still Tucker (and their clone on Peachtree Industrial), then Howell Mill, and maybe the one on Scott Blvd. Need something for that older house, can’t find it – go to Tucker Ace. Also, an extremely knowledgeable staff. But don’t look for flowers….

  10. The best Ace is still Tucker (and their clone on Peachtree Industrial), then Howell Mill, and maybe the one on Scott Blvd. Need something for that older house, can’t find it – go to Tucker Ace. Also, an extremely knowledgeable staff. But don’t look for flowers….

  11. Tony Powers has been so good to our community and to our school system with lots of generous donations. No way I will switch to Wal-Mart over someone like that. That is what makes Decatur a great community.Our small businesses are what gives our town such charm.Meanwhile walmart is under investigation for 24 million dollars in
    bribes in Mexico.Let your conscious do your shopping.

  12. Ace will compete the same way they’ve handled HD and Lowes – selection and service. I go to Ace when I need something now, and don’t care that it will cost more. If I go to HD or Lowes with a list of 8-10 items for a home improvement project, there is a very good chance 1-2 items won’t be in stock. Ace also is far superior for selection and small quantities of hardware and fasteners.

  13. It still amazes me that people complain about taxes in Decatur. We have higher taxes because we get a quality of life that reflects the investment that we’ve made into our schools, our downtown and our neighborhoods. There is no magic here. You don’t get sidewalks, parks, festivals, community centers and all the government services for free. When I lived in Dekalb county, it would take the police a minimum of an hour to respond. The nearest park to my house was over four miles away. Needless to say, there wasn’t a sidewalk to get there. Can you imagine attempting to talk to the Superintendent of Dekalb County Schools? Taxes in Decatur are very close to those in Lithonia and Atlanta. Which one would you rather live in?

  14. There is no doubt in my mind that even with Wal Mart at Suburban Plaza, Ace will still be there for decades to come. I’ve been going to that Ace for years. Maybe some items are a little pricier than at a Home Depot or Lowes (or even Wal Mart) but I go there because I love the personal service and family atmosphere they’ve created. My kids love going there are browsing around too. You just never know what you’re going to find at Ace – sometimes items that I’ve looked all over the city for, I’ve been able to find in ten seconds at Ace.

  15. Just about the only thing I have not purchased at Intown Ace is my clothing, and that is only because Mrs. Bad Example won’t let me. The staff is friendly, helpful, and easy to find. If they sold lumber I would never go to Home Depot. I don’t plan on setting foot in the Walmart, and I very much hope that Ace survives the competition. I can’t think of another store in the area that I would miss more.

  16. I really don’t have a problem with walmart…is what it is…refer to recent Athens debacle with Walmart going downtown… Even Duany mentioned that if built Walmart would be the only place in downtown Athens where one could get socks etc. Walmart is not the devil IMO and there is a place for it (one should look to scale…not nameplate).

    That being said I doubt I’ll shop at the one proposed for anything the Intown Ace offers…

    Can the proposed walmart be something other than a super Walmart?

    1. I’ll just add, I am loyal to Intown ACE for their service and ridiculously nice folks, not prices. This is why I’d shop there over Wallyworld. If I was Clark Howard I might feel different!

  17. One of the best stores in Decatur, period. Great service and selection. And the entire team gives back to the community. Intown is in a totally different league than WM – no comparison.

  18. Did any of you catch this infuriating addition to the article?

    Note: After this story was published, Wal-Mart’s Director of Community & Media Relations, William C. “Bill” Wertz, notified me of this correction: “There will be a garden center in our new store. It was overlooked in some preliminary discussions with the community, but we corrected that back in October of 2011. The GC [garden center] is in our official application and has been discussed at multiple public meetings and approved by the [DeKalb] county board of zoning appeals.”

      1. I’m pretty sure representatives from Selig told the Medlock neighborhood association (and perhaps others) that the WalMart would *not* have a garden center so as not to directly compete with existing businesses. I’ll look back at the information I saved.

        1. It’s here in the notes taken at a meeting between WalMart and Selig reps and members of the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association. (See the Q & A portion where Stegner answers a question about things the WalMart won’t sell. Specifically says no garden center, but they reserve the right to provide us with guns and ammo should the market demand.)

          Edited to add: Sorry I forgot to include the link, above. Hope it’s OK.

          I haven’t been opposed to the WalMart there as I support the shopping center’s redevelopment, but WalMart’s tendency to reneg on its agreements with communities in which it places stores does have me worried. So they say there will be underground parking, bike racks, etc. but when it is actually built it may look absolutely nothing like that. It seems like they send representatives out to say whatever they think will get the community’s approval and then do whatever they originally had planned anyway.

          And, yes, I understand the letter of understanding they have with the neighborhood associations is not legally binding, but it’s still really crappy to go around making promises you have no intention of honoring.

          1. “And, yes, I understand the letter of understanding they have with the neighborhood associations is not legally binding, but it’s still really crappy to go around making promises you have no intention of honoring.”

            And yet this is Wal-Mart’s modus operandi. Consistently.

            1. Also, that meeting took place on Nov. 2, 2011, so the contention by the PR rep that they’ve been saying they’ll have a garden center since Oct. 2011 is not accurate. “Overlooked” is an interesting choice of words.

          2. I’m seeking clarification, but I think what’s being called the Garden Center is the total space set aside– interior and exterior– for selling garden related items. Here’s info from the email I sent out to the Decatur Heights neighbors with the agreements:

            …” Also not listed is Walmart’s agreement not to build a garden center. They will not extend beyond the physical building, but it’ll likely include a small enclosed bump out (smaller than Avondale’s where the registers are) to allow for promos of things like Easter lilies; also for patio furniture like Big Lots.”…

            Walmart and Selig locked into permissable building areas (can’t go past the lines) around the buildings to ensure everyone that the buildings would stick to plan. There’s no large extended area on the plans. Also, it seems that not having easy access parking to an outdoor center would hurt sales.

              1. Well, I haven’t heard back from Glen Wilkins/Walmart, but Bill Stogner emailed back yesterday morning that Glen planned to meet with Intown Ace yesterday. If we don’t hear any more on it today, I can check with the Selig folks tomorrow when they get back to town.

          3. I believe you meant Stogner, not Stegner. I recall that Selig’s Bill Stogner is Richard Stogner’s brother. Richard is Executive Assistant and Chief Operating Officer for DeKalb County.

  19. Would much rather spend a little bit more and support a locally owned business! Love the garden dept and being a newly independent homeowner the people at Intown Hardware have been super helpful. I have brought in many a household item needing replacement and they walk me to where it is in their store. Plus the employee in the paint dept was incredibly helpful with assisting me to pick the right type of paint when repainting my bedroom.

    Overall, have always gotten quality friendly service there and they have my business. The heck with Walmart.

  20. First off, let me say that I really do like the In Town Ace. It is a fabulously run place from my perspective as a customer and I love shopping there. What I don’t do is kid myself into thinking that it’s not a business that’s run for profit. It is, after all, part of a very large corporation that existed long before Home Depot was a glimmer and it pre-exists Walmart by about 40 years.

    People keep commenting on the morality of Walmart and while there are things I don’t like about it, again I try to be truthful. Some make it sound like they would only be happy if Walmart was replaced be some motley collection of individually owned and operated stores, and I just don’t get that. People complain about the benefits at Walmart and that they’re exploiting workers but I can’t help but wonder how those benefits stack up against the small business owner employing all of their part and full-time workers. Are their benefits really any better or any less exploitative? Would the thousands and thousands of employees at tiny local stores really, on the whole, be getting better health coverage, life insurance, paid vacation, etc. than the average Walmart worker?

    Now shift to the products they sell. Look around in many of your favorite little shops. How much of the crap they’re selling is made in China? What do you think you would find if you traced back to the factories where their stuff comes from? This includes Ace Hardware.

    And then you’ll say, “But at least the Ace is owned by a local family who gives back to the community,” while ignoring that Selig Enterprises, and Home Depot for that matter, are products of Atlanta that, God forbid, committed the sin of becoming just too darn big. Check out the charities and the money that is poured into communities all over the nation by HD, Walmart, and Selig and try and keep in check your cynicism when you say they only do it for the tax write-off or as a public relations stunt while not believing that In Town Ace does it for the same reasons.

    Just my thoughts. Time for bed.

    1. +1. Very well put. The Walton family has been VERY generous with both corporate and personal charity dollars. I think Wal-Mart has a place here and would fill a gap. Curious, would be people be so up in arms if it was a Target? Calls have been made for Trader Joes and Whole Foods…these are both big box retail. Why are these acceptable while Wallyworld is not? People claim the issue with Wal-mart is exploitation, and your counterpoints are well made. People also point to the increase in traffic Wal-Mart will bring. Hello…have these folks every been near a TJ or WF on a weekend. CRAZY traffic. But again, for some reason, these big box retail options are acceptable. I think what it really boils down to is that people don’t like the idea that they live near The Wal-Mart, as if that somehow makes their neighborhood lesser.

      1. “People also point to the increase in traffic Wal-Mart will bring”
        The expansion of YDFM would also bring huge increases in traffic in an area that has even fewer ways in and out. Where has GGD been on that one?

    1. I know this news has made quite the splash, especially here in Decatur where many are fighting Wal-Mart in Suburban Plaza. However, business functions differently in different parts of the world. There are areas in Mexico where LOCALS have to pay the drug cartels a fee just to drive across town. I try to bear this in mind every time this story comes up. I’m not saying it’s right, but it happens. Oh, and if you think this type of activity doesn’t happen all over the US, you are simply not seeing the truth. “Bribes” happen all the time on a local, state and federal level, if you take into account the various entitlement programs that come into play for business development. Entitlement is simply a prettier, more PC word.

  21. I would first like to thank all of you who have taken the time to say such nice things about our store, Intown Hardware. It means a lot to all of us.

    I wanted to clarify a comment made earlier about ACE being a corporation and having been around longer than Home Depot and Walmart. ACE is a Coop, founded in the 1940’s with each store being independently owned and operated. Many of you know the owners of our store because they both live within two miles of the store and are actively involved with the day to day operations. Our lives and livelihoods depend on the continued success of our business. With the addition of new competition in the Decatur marketplace, we will continue to work hard to earn your business.

    Thanks again,

    Tony and Dave

    1. Thanks for a great store, great service, and especially great community service. You do so much for youth–school fundraisers, Scouts, band, DEF, etc. Thanks. I didn’t agree with your politics on closing Westchester but that didn’t take away from every that you do for the community. Plus your merchandise is great. If I had to, I could meet all my basic needs between your store and Publix.

  22. If the folks at the local Ace Hardware (and I am a big fan) were willing, I would like to know what kind of salaries and benefits, (in general) they pay. I can’t get beyond the feeling that the “generousity” of the Wal Mart owners is built on exploitation of its workers who get inadequate health benefits and very low wages. Mr Sam and his whole family could still be very rich, and have a policy of paying wages a family could live on.
    And, yes, you are right, Target is about the same. I believe TJ’s and Whole foods offer somewhat better jobs, at least to long term employees, but I am not sure.

    Our current economic weakness is at least partially built upon the reduced buying power of the average consumer. Unless we can start to close the widening gap between the average American and the CEO of the firm they work for, we are in big trouble. And that includes the well educated workers who seem to make up most of the commenters here.

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