Business is thriving in the relatively new housewares department in Dexter’s Hackney Ace Hardware. The 600 square foot space was formerly home to the gift shop Christine’s for over 20 years. The space was reabsorbed into Hackney Ace Hardware and has been delighting customers with an eclectic assortment of housewares, kitchenware and other items since it reopened just before Thanksgiving. What makes the space so special is that everything lovingly stocked on the shelves is made either locally, in Michigan or throughout the USA.
Dan and Abby O’Haver, the owners of Hackney Ace Hardware, decided to remove the walls inside of the old gift shop space to make it flow into the rest of the existing hardware store. Dan’s mother, Christine O’Haver, used to run Christine’s, which was its own walled-in space located directly next door to the hardware store.
The O’Havers said they are very pleased with how well the new space has been received by the public.
“We decided to just to go ahead and integrate that back into the business and give it more of a hardware and general store type feel,” Dan said in an interview with We Love Dexter staff Jan. 19. “The response has been overwhelming. People have been really happy with it. There’s always people shopping in that space.”
Dan’s family has owned Hackney Ace Hardware since the early 1940s. Dan is the third generation of his family to run the business, purchasing it from his parents in 1996.
Abby said traffic flow within the store has improved greatly ever since an opening in the brick wall by the checkout counter was made linking the hardware store with the former gift shop space.
“It’s been great. Men and women have been shopping both sides of the store,” Abby said. “It’s opened up our space to the street I think quite a bit. We’ve got just a lot more traffic coming in and saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize how large your store actually was,’ so that front window being opened up has been a plus for the business.”
Dan said the renovation is a way for the family-owned business to stay current and competitive in today’s world of big box home improvement stores.
“That’s one of the big reasons why we renovated our housewares department,” Dan said. “I think what’s happening now is that a lot of these big box (stores) have come in and if you try to look like them, they just do that better than you. They are all about price, where you get a lot of stuff for as low a price as possible.”
Dan said the downside of big boxes is that a lot of the inventory is made of lower quality materials, it’s harder to get customer service and there is a more impersonal feeling when shopping.
“Abby’s gone out and researched and found U.S. made, locally-made and Michigan-made products to put into that room,” Dan said. “When you look through that room, it’s almost all U.S. made, locally-made products, and that is very difficult to go out and buy and to even find online these days.”
Dan said the space has created a cool niche — a department selling high quality, yet affordable goods made right here in the USA.
“It doesn’t have to have a high price point,” Dan said. “A lot of stuff in that room is not incredibly expensive and it’s all great quality.”
Abby has been the force behind the selection of items such as kitchen utensils, Michigan-themed tumblers and pillows, to cast-iron skillets and hand towels.
“We tried to be really selective with what we’re putting into the new space, and the new housewares section and just really focus on useful, thoughtfully chosen and well-made products that you just can’t find at the big boxes necessarily,” Abby said. “So, it’s a space to kind of collect just some high quality, thoughtfully chosen items that we’re proud to carry, we use ourselves and would buy as gifts for our friends … and some things that we think are just plain cool that you just can’t find everywhere.”
Abby said the housewares section is a cozy size, so she tries to pick cream of the crop merchandise to stock the shelves — classic items, and tools for the kitchen, pantry and home that customers will appreciate.
According to Dan, the hardware store is planning to expand the concept of the room after witnessing the popularity of the new department.
“We’re just getting started in that space. We have new stuff coming in everyday,” Dan said. “We’re just working on kind of growing this concept within the store as we kind of seek out these items that are a little bit higher quality and more locally made.”
For the O’Havers, it was an enjoyable experience renovating the former gift shop space back into the hardware store. The old wooden flooring was brought back, along with the exposed brick walls and vintage vent covers.
“Part of the fun was restoring that building back to its original bones,” Abby said. “I think our customers kind of appreciate that aspect too, that we’re working on preserving a little part of history and the building itself.”
Abby said while big box stores seem to be here to stay, many of her customers prefer to shop at their smaller, family-owned business. The wooden floors, multistory structure, high ceilings and friendly, knowledgeable staff bring back memories of a simpler time.
“Really, we’re kind of thanking them in return,” Dan said. “(We’re) just trying to give them an even better shopping experience, and trying to set this up so that (the business) will survive the next big wave of competition. It’s just kind of this community event when you come in, so a feel-good experience is what we’re trying to develop.”
Hackney Ace Hardware is open seven days a week. The store is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. The hardware store is located at 8105 Main St. in Dexter and can be reached at (734) 426-4009.