Larsen Ace Hardware will be taking over the adjacent space that formerly housed Village Vitality.
By Ronni Newton
While many brick and mortar retailers are struggling in today’s online shopping environment, Larsen Ace Hardware owner Fred Larsen Sr. said that their West Hartford business has “exceeded our expectations” since shortly after the family took over Pfau’s Hardware in 2015.
“Our customers are so supportive and they’ve been great,” Larsen said, so when the opportunity arose to take over the vacant space next door, he and his son, Fred Jr., decided that they could do more with more space. “We discussed and discussed it with [Property Manager] Mike [Mahoney], and said, ‘We’ll take it.'”
Business was somewhat slow when the family took over the longtime West Hartford business, Larsen said, “but then it was like we caught fire.” He gives plenty of credit to the staff, led by manager Dan Hinman who will be overseeing the expansion into an additional 2,100 square feet of space.
“We’re definitely going to be expanding our offerings,” Hinman said. The existing footprint of the hardware store has somewhat limited what they can stock, but adding the former Village Vitality space will increase the square footage by more than 50 percent – bringing the total area to about 5,800 square feet.
Hinman said that he and other staff have listened to the customers as they have determined what areas of the business should expand.
Grills, which have been a very popular item, will definitely see an expansion, with more items on display.
All the existing services will remain, and Hinman said that all of the hardware store’s departments are being evaluated for the possibility of enhancements. The tool department, for example, might be expanded with the addition of more specialty tools.
“We’re also looking at bringing back gift items,” said Hinman. When the store operated as Pfau’s, there was a small giftware department, but it had been phased out. “We’ve already spoken with vendors, and we are looking to bring those back as as a nice positive,” he said, with plans to offer some unique merchandise.
The front of the store will also be adapted for holiday-related items. In fact, because the renovations are scheduled to be completed sometime in October, it’s likely that Christmas and other holiday merchandise will be set up right away. “I hate to say it,” Hinman said, but it makes the most sense.
The plans, which have been approved by the town, call for four points of entry between the existing Larsen space and the new space. “It will feel like one big store,” Hinman said.
The back door will remain in the same place, but Hinman said that there’s a strong possibility that the front door will move to the east, where the former Village Vitality door is located. Some other parts of the current layout will also be modified, Hinman said.
Larsen said that his business is taken over the existing lease, which has 1.5 years left, and he has signed another five-year lease on top of that. “It’s a good marriage with us and the owners,” he said. “Everyone thinks it’s going to be another restaurant, but our building owners want something else” for the vacant space in the Center.
Hinman said that he and the owners are open to input from customers. “If there are any suggestions for new products you’d like to see, stop in and let us know,” he said. “We’re happy to listen.”
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