Hardware store may open Downtown

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The epiphany came to Donna Fisher when she was installing a shower head in her Downtown apartment.

She needed teflon tape to finish the job, but couldn't find a place to get any. The Cass Plumbing and Heating Supplies store on Fourth Avenue was closed at the time.

"At that moment, I realized that there was no hardware store in Downtown Pittsburgh," she said. "I realized there was a need."

Now, Ms. Fisher, an artist, is seeking to fulfill it.

The former librarian is working with Ace Hardware to open a store Downtown. She has scouted several potential locations for the franchise, including a building that once housed a McDonald's restaurant at the corner of Wood Street and Forbes Avenue.

Other possible locations include one on Penn Avenue in the Cultural District and two on Wood near Point Park University.

If Ms. Fisher is successful, the hardware store could be the first Downtown in nearly 20 years, since Federal Paint and Hardware Store in Market Square closed its doors in 1992.

Ms. Fisher is hoping to open the store in the first quarter of 2012, assuming she can secure a lease and make the necessary renovations to prepare the space for hardware.

She believes the timing is perfect, particularly given the residential housing boom Downtown over the last decade.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership estimates that there are 4,500 people living Downtown. The number of apartments and condominiums has increased from 1,230 in 2000 to 2,300 now, with another 560 units in the pipeline.

"There is a dire need for a hardware store in Downtown Pittsburgh," she said.

Ms. Fisher still is putting together the financing for the venture. She is hoping to secure some aid from the city and said she is working with a number of private investors to line up funding.

"It will be a challenge, but it will not be a problem," she said.

Ace, she said, will provide $225,000 in merchandise to franchisees and help in setting up the store. She plans to open the store with at least two full-time employees and six to 12 part-timers.

While Ms. Fisher has a background as a librarian and in art, she also worked with a retail inventory company in Cleveland that did a lot of business with hardware and grocery stores.

"Hardware is sort of in my blood. It's one of those things that I just always liked. Hardware is cool stuff," she said.

The hardware store Ms. Fisher envisions would be geared toward the urban dweller.

There would be no lawn mowers or snow blowers, for instance, because who needs them when the pad outside is made of concrete and someone clears it for you.

But there would be plenty of traditional hardware goods like hammers, saws, nails, screws, flashlights and sundry other items needed to maintain, improve or repair domestic dwellings.

Stuls Ace Hardware, the name Ms. Fisher has chosen for the store, also will sell art and pet supplies and housewares. She wants to stock American and locally made products. She also is working on an iPad application that would allow customers to place online orders and have them delivered to their doorstep.

In addition, she hopes to reach out to the construction and property maintenance industries to generate business.

The goal, she said, is to create an "eclectic funkiness while incorporating the look and feel of an old-time hardware store to serve the hardware needs of residents, developers, and maintenance operations."

"I want to be able to appeal to that character that is Pittsburgh," she said.

Correction/Clarification: (Published December 6, 2011) Ace Hardware will provide $225,000 in merchandise for a proposed store Downtown. An inaccurate figure was given in an article Friday.

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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