Henry's ACE to move into old Dollar Store building

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MILTON-FREEWATER -- Henry's ACE Hardware will move into the defunct Dollar Store building and re-open its own version of a dollar store at its current site on Columbia Street.

The purchase of and move into the Dollar Store building at 175 S. Main St. is part of an intricate plan to grow the hardware operation -- one of the community's most stable retailers -- and bring back a twist on the discount retailer that was lost, said owner Doug Henry.

He said the move should take place mid-November when workers will wrap the shelves in plastic, wheel them through a back door down a homemade dock, jack them up and load them on trucks for the new space.

The existing inventory won't be all that's offered, Henry said. The building ¬?-- also known as the old Safeway site before the Dollar Store moved in eight years ago -- will have expanded lines through ACE. It will also become a small-scale lumber outlet, Henry said.

"There's no place to buy lumber in town right now," Henry said. "We currently have just a few sticks of lumber, but if you want 10 two-by-fours you have to drive into Walla Walla."

The limited supply at the new space should offer home owners enough to build a fence or a room onto their home. Those interested in building a house would still need to seek a larger supply elsewhere, he said.

With two years remaining on the existing lease, Henry said he plans to convert that space into a store for clearance and "opportunity" buys. At least half the merchandise carried at that annex store will be $1 or less, he said. The inventory will come from markdowns from the other Ace stores he runs with his wife, Linda. The pair will also explore their buying power through ACE to help strengthen their supply of items, he said.

Henry and his wife have been owners of Henry's Ace Hardware since 2004, after then-owners Bob and Alice Bascom had been involved in a serious motorcycle crash in Texas on their way back from an ACE Buying Show.

Earlier this year, the Henrys expanded with the Walla Walla ACE Hardware store in the Eastgate Marketplace. That operation will not be affected by the changes in Milton-Freewater.

Henry said the new space south of the state line was purchased for $390,000 by a locally formed investment group called MOVIC LLC. The acronym stands for "Milton-Freewater Oregon Venture Investment Capitalists," but is officially called by its shortened name. Henry is the managing member. Other investors -- two of whom also invested in the Walla Walla store -- are silent partners.

For 50 years the 18,545-square-foot building -- a little more than double the size of the current ACE -- has been owned by a Chicago-based family. Henry said he began pursuing a purchase of the building when he first learned last May that the Dollar Store would be closing down.

The new space boosts parking seven-fold, Henry said. The current store offers 13 stalls, compared to the 91 spaces at the new one.

The current site has been a hot spot for hardware for more than three decades. The space was occupied by a Coast to Coast store until the national chain went bankrupt in 1995. The space then became an ACE Hardware store.

The ACE Hardware Corp., now led by former Coast to Coast District Manager Ray Griffith, is a cooperative with more than 4,600 stores.

The transition in Milton-Freewater is expected to take place over a weekend, Henry said. He plans to close the store at noon on a yet-to-be-announced Saturday and re-open the following Monday.

"I think we can move the stuff in an afternoon," he said. "I guess we'll find out."

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