Ace Hardware now has a presence in Newport with the opening of a new store on Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 2340 N Coast Highway, right next to Rite Aid in the Pacific Plaza Shopping Center.
A four-day, grand opening celebration will take place this week, from Thursday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 23, featuring special deals, daily drawings, factory representatives and more.
The initial response from customers “has just been unbelievable,” said owner Bob Leis.
“The first customer that came in, he made his purchase with a credit card, but he wanted to make sure that we had the first dollar, so he opened his wallet and gave us a dollar bill and said, ‘This is your first dollar.’ So we saved that and we’re going to hang that up,” said Leis. “We had one lady that came in … she was so ecstatic she went back out to her car and got her phone and went onto Facebook live and started walking up and down the aisles.”
That was the kind of response he was hoping for after a very lengthy process leading up to the store opening. Interestingly enough, if his original plan had come through, Leis would have been opening a store in Pacific City, not Newport.
“We have a house in Pacific City, so four years ago I had made an offer to buy the hardware store in Pacific City and worked on that for a year,” said Leis. Everything was proceeding well on that venture, but then at the last minute, the owners pulled out of the deal. “I was devastated because that took a year out of my life,” he said. “Then I just stumbled on this Newport site.”
But Leis ran into difficulties with this location, as well. Rite Aid had the lease for the space he now occupies, and although that corporation agreed to sublease it, they weren’t willing to do what was needed to ready the building for a new store, and that was a deal-breaker for Leis. But then he wondered if perhaps the owner of the Pacific Plaza complex, Ed Wiles, would be willing to work a deal.
“I met with Ed and gave him my vision and what it would look like and how it would feel,” said Leis, and Wiles was agreeable. It still took another two years from that point, but the end result is exactly the vision Leis had at the start.
“It’s been a gut-wrenching experience just because the road has been so long to get to this point, but the customers are coming in, and they’re liking it, and I’m seeing everything purchased already from barbecues to shop vacs to ammunition. It’s been good.”
Leis has a work background that is particularly suited to operating this new store. “I have 30 years in fish, hunt and camp,” he said. “I was a buyer and then a store manager for G.I. Joe’s. Then I was a national sales manager for Big Rock Sports. That’s where I learned the whole distribution side of sporting goods. During the two years he was working toward opening the Newport store, he was also working as a representative for a hardware supplier. “Then I started working in the core hardware end of things … it’s like I’ve been training for this all my life.”
The Newport store is an independent Ace Hardware, rather than a franchise store, and as such, Leis has a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing what products to carry. “So the merchandise assortment is all customized,” he said. “You can see that this is definitely a customized assortment with the fishing and hunting and marine and camping, and Traeger and all of the outdoor cooking.” There is a large crabbing assortment and a lot of gear for saltwater fishing — bottom fish, salmon and halibut — “and because of our square footage, we have to drive it down to the top sellers and the best sellers, and we’re competitive. That’s what we are and it’s all in one place.”
There is considerable depth in the assortment of items carried at the Newport Ace Hardware. “Everything from plumbing fittings to spray paint,” said Leis. “You walk down our spray paint aisle, and it’s 48 feet of just every kind of spray paint that you can think of. So that’s what sets us apart, and with all the data and research that not only Ace has done but what I have done, it’s really customized for this area.”
The store will also be selling rifles, shotguns and handguns, along with ammunition and accessories. “People are just ecstatic that we are going to be selling firearms, and we’re happy to do it,” said Leis.
Leis has tried to anticipate all of the needs of the local area, but he admits they may not have everything people are looking for, especially just starting out. “A perfect example is someone came in looking for driveway markers. We should have those, so it’s as simple as me or any of my managers ordering them, and they’re part of our assortment going forward. It’s that easy. We can’t pick up everything, but it if makes sense … we should have it.”
During the grand opening celebration this week, there are a variety of special events planned. “We’ll have Traeger cooking demos every day,” said Leis. “We have manufacturer reps spending time slots every single day in the store — gun vendors, fishing vendors. I have a couple fishing guide celebrities — Buzz Ramsey from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, sharing tips and secrets for fall salmon fishing, and then Jack and Brandon Glass with Team Hookup. On Thursday, we have Pro-Cure coming in to do a talk on bait curing methods and techniques.”
There will also be a number of special deals during the grand opening. “Everything is limited to stock on hand, but I ordered lots to make sure that we hopefully can take care of all the customers,” said Leis. “We’ve got some really hot, hot prices. We’ve got lots of enter-to-wins, and I’m donating my Seahawk tickets as one of the prizes.”
Regular store hours at Ace Hardware are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. More information is available by calling 541-272-5440, and information can be found online at acehardware.com.