Since Orchard Supply Hardware closed its two Modesto stores last year, shoppers — particularly on the city’s east side — have had to travel farther afield to find their new lawn mowers and table saws.
But now, a new store will bring all those home, garden and tool needs back under the exact same roof. The owners of Escalon’s Strand Ace Hardware plan to open a second store in the old OSH site on Oakdale Road this summer.
The Swanson family has owned the Strand Ace since 1975, when they took over from its founders. The Strand brothers started the business more than 70 years ago. The expansion marks the family’s first foray into the Modesto market.
“With Orchard closing, it blew up the market in Modesto, and we saw a great opportunity for us,” said Strand Ace Vice President Dirk Swanson, whose grandparents Larry and Agatha first purchased the store and still drop by to work regularly.
The family plans to keep its Escalon site and open another Ace in the OSH space. The new store will be significantly larger than the existing shop, at 44,000 square feet versus the current 28,000 square feet. That extra space will mean more opportunities to add merchandise, including grilling and outdoor accessories, lawn and garden products, and seasonal items.
Swanson said the family had been looking to expand for about two years. The company has grown significantly over the past 44 years, from its original Escalon library site to a larger space on Main Street to its location now on McHenry Avenue. The current complex has also grown since it opened in 2006, from one building to a second building plus garden center in 2015. Today, three generations of Swansons work at the Escalon store, in addition to about 25 employees.
The new Modesto site will have double the staff, at about 50. The family has already begun hiring and training for the new store, and will continue as its opening grows closer. Swanson said they plan to start work on the Oakdale Road store next week, in line for an early July opening.
Already, the Escalon store has hired five former Orchard employees, including Estela Evensen, who had been with OSH in Modesto for 24 years. She expects to transfer over to the Modesto site when it opens.
“There were so many tears when the (Orchard) closed,” Evensen said. “People were so sad when it closed, but this is very exciting now.”
Last August, Lowe’s announced it was closing all 99 of its Orchard Supply Hardware stores across California, Oregon and Florida, including the two Modesto sites on Sisk and Oakdale roads. The Sisk Road site, next to the also-closed Toys R Us, remains vacant. The Strand Ace Hardware owners are taking over the lease from Lowe’s for the Oakdale Road site.
All Ace Hardware stores are privately owned, including nearby stores in Ceres, Oakdale, Ripon and Newman. Modesto has had Ace Hardware stores come and go in the past, including now defunct sites on Tully Road and Sylvan Avenue. Mid-sized hardware stores, like Orchard, have been harder and harder to find locally. The True Value Hardware on Coffee Road was closed after 36 years in business in 2010, only to be reopened by a new owner less than a year later.
The Swansons plan to bring their demo and event program over to the Modesto store. For those looking for a preview of what the business will offer, the Escalon site is hosting a “Yard Party” with grilling and equipment demos from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 6. The company also plans to offer delivery, custom orders, repair and rentals for certain items, as it does at its current store.
As someone who spent last weekend roaming the seemingly endless aisles of a big-box hardware store to find the right light bulb, I’d say the new Ace can’t open soon enough.
Elsewhere on the Business Beat:
It’s April, which means it’s tax time, which means you’ve got a lot of sensitive paperwork floating around your house.
The folks at Office Depot and Office Max want to help with that. The stores are offering free paper shredding through much of April. Customers must print out and bring in a coupon from the company website, which entitles them to free shredding of up to 5 pounds of documents. The promotion runs through April 27.
To find out more, visit www.officedepot.com/workonomy and then click on “Shredding + Storage.”
Marijke Rowland: 209-578-2284, @marijkerowland