A loss that will be felt

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After more than 30 years Keizer will be without a locally-owned hardware store. Ace Hardware, born as Coast to Coast Hardware in 1972, will close its doors at the end of January.

It is a commentary on the current economic times in America. Owners Greg and Jan Frank looked into the future and saw no way to keep the Keizer store going after its lease expires later this month.  The Franks deserve kudos for keeping the store as a going concern after the arrival of behomeths Lowe’s in Keizer Station and Home Depot just across the Salem Parkway. It is diffcult at best for a small retailer to succeed in the market against two, let alone one, huge competitors.

The Franks will continue to operate their second Ace Hardware store located in West Salem. But that doesn’t take the sting out of losing a beloved store, especially one which will leave a large hole on River Road.

Though part of a large franchised hardware chain, the Keizer Ace Hardware was always operated like a mom and pop operation—the staff knew where every paint brush, bolt and screwdriver was located in the store. The closing of the Keizer store will result in a handful of people losing their jobs.

The closing of Ace Hardware is a cautionary tale for other locally owned retailers in Keizer. The store and its staff seemingly did everything right, caring for their customers, offering value and the products they wanted. In the end it was like a little dinghy getting pushed out of the way for a couple of battleships.

Customer service is the one aspect that can differentiate one retailer from another, or a small retailer from superlarge competitors. As consumers we seek value but also want excellent service by knowledgeable staff. We have all experienced less-than-stellar service at some point. Small business owners, be they retailers or in the services sector, can keep the customers and clients they have by assuring that the customer feels good about choosing that business.

Making sure that customers are the number one priority in a business doesn’t necessary assure eternal success. The marketplace will always dictate who succeeds and who falls to the side.

The loss of Ace Hardware will add another large empty space in the middle of Keizer’s commercial district. It will join the former Roth’s Market and Office Depot locations across River Road in Schoolhouse Square.

This should be a starting point for the proposed Economic Development Commission the city wants to establish. Keizer Station by its location and reputation will, in the long run, be just fine as more businessees decide to build there.

Keizer should not allow the city’s center to become a ghost town of empty store fronts; some spaces have been empty for years. Surely there are enough smart, visionary businesspeople, government officials and developers who can look at the Schoolhouse Square/Vilberie Center developments and come up with a plan that makes Keizer ‘downtown’ vibrant.

It is sad to lose Ace  Hardware in Keizer, but it gives our business and civic leaders an opportunity to show what they can do for our community.

—LAZ

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