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Ace executives, touring the site last summer, said they'd never seen a building better suited for a hardware store, owner Brad Dahn said of his new location on Highway 34 east. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Ace Hardware's new site holds expanded, new inventory

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A grand shopping experience awaits customers stepping into the "new" Ace Hardware with 4,000 items added to the inventory and an expansion in all the existing lines of goods.

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"We've evolved from a hardware store to a general store," Ace Hardware owner Brad Dahn said of the relocation of the business from Highway 71 south to Highway 34 east.

The six-week relocation is on schedule, Dahn taking his first day off Friday.

"We did it," he told his crew last week. "Thank you. We stuck together. No one's fuse was too short. It's behind us."

The grueling task began mid-January, with planning underway last summer. "It's 10 times worse than moving house to house," he estimates.

Dahn determined from the get-go there would be a "soft opening," no fireworks or planes flying overhead with banners trailing when the first customer stepped in the door.

Two weeks were spent working on the building, with light fixtures now running north to south, for example, and other cosmetic amenities added.

"The building was in great shape," Dahn said. "And Jeff and Bob (Hensel, the former owners) were very helpful."

During week one of the move, just the old store was open to customers. By mid-February, both stores were open - and Dahn was asking Bob Hensel, "Whose idea was this?"

But when February came to an end, with the former building razed, a new chapter was unfolding.

Dahn credits the aid of church groups for the smooth move, each receiving a donation for the endeavor.

Youth from Faith Baptist helped with the moving "kick-off."

St. Johns Lutheran Laymen's League spent two Saturdays and some evenings removing and setting up fixtures. Potluck dinners - with Dahn bringing chicken - provided sustenance.

And his "Menahga Finlander Friends blew me away."

Wife Carol, who works with a member of the Laestadian Lutheran Church, mentioned Dahn was in need of moving assistance.

"Let us help," her co-worker told her. The congregants were in need of a new project, having just completed building a new church.

He contacted Joyce Skoog. "Are you serious?"

Dahn asked for 12 to 15 people; at 6 p.m., more than 30 people - from teens to seniors - arrived to assist.

"It knocked me over," he said of the response. And the corps of movers continued to arrive several days a week through February. "I got out of the way, or I was going to be run over," he said of their energy.

"Today, we're right on track, with the help from churches and the employee dedication to get the job done."

March will be the month for fine-tuning, Dahn said.

The 23,000-square-foot building, with 16,500 square feet of sales floor, is just over twice the size of the former site.

The store will hold an expanded line of bird feeders, decorative rock for gardens, a unique but affordable line of lawn furniture, a wide selection of grilling equipment, kitchen and bath faucets and light fixtures - with an emphasis on the new energy-saving fixtures.

The paint and stain choices have been expanded. Stihl hand-held outdoor power equipment is also now available.

A grand opening is planned for May 1-2, to accommodate the return of snowbirds.

Store hours will be expanded, come April, and will be open seven days a week.

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