Both Westside hardware stores closing their doors

       The Westside may be without a hardware store in less than two months.
       Final days have been scheduled by Baker's Do It Best Hardware (May 21) and Ace Hardware (June 11).
       Ace Manager Ricky Martinez left open a ray of hope, saying he is looking for another location on the Westside or possibly downtown. “Hopefully, it can be a smooth transition,” he said. However, nothing has been finalized as yet.
       Greg Baker, co-owner of Baker's, said there is no chance of his store staying on. “The expenses keep going up faster than the profits,” he said.
       The announcements leave Westside shoppers at a loss for where they'll buy, as resident Mark Martin put it, “the small items” that can't be found in larger stores.
       Ace has been at the Uintah Garden shopping center for 10 years. A hardware store (with different names) has been in the Red Rock shopping center since 1970, Baker said, with his family having at least partial ownership since 1985.
       According to Westside historian Mel McFarland, a person would have to go back 120 years to find the last time the Westside had no hardware store. In the 1890s, Colorado City had as many as eight or nine, he said.
       Both Martinez and Baker gave the same main reasons for quitting: rents going up and a belief that they could not pass those costs along to customers.
       Martinez said the Uintah Garden shopping center wanted to double the rent for his 11,000 square feet, while Baker said that steady rent increases over time have pushed the store's ownership “to the point where we can't afford it.”
       Baker said the influx of large (big-box) stores has also hurt. “They've changed the dynamic of selling home-improvement products,” he said. “People see bigger as cheaper, but that's not necessarily true.”
       After Baker's store closes, his 12 employees will be let go, he said. There is another Baker's hardware store in Security, but it has no staff openings at this time, he explained.
       He said he has looked around for other locations in the past, but buildings that size (12,000 square feet) are hard to find and from what he's found, the rents “are no cheaper anywhere else.”
       With Baker announcing his closure a few weeks before he did, Martinez said he considered moving his store to that site, “but I didn't care for the lot.”
       According to Martinez, Ace's 11 employees will not lose their jobs. If another Westside location cannot be found, opportunities exist for them at either of the other two Ace stores in Colorado Springs, he said.
       As for himself, “I'm going down with my ship,” said Martinez, who has been with the store for 10 years, working his way up to manager. “It's real sad. We've had a lot of great customers. I hope we can take them with us.”
       Both stores have erected large signs, advertising closing sales. According to Baker, “Our goal is to sell everything in the store.” Martinez is not quite as ambitious: He would just like to sell “as much as possible so we don't have to move as much” to a new location.
       The nearly simultaneous closing announcements met with dismay from various Westsiders. “I'll have to drive farther to find a similar hardware store,” said Mike Davis, who was shopping at Baker's this week. “Home Depot is a barn. You spend too much time walking around trying to find stuff.”
       Woody Woodworth, who owns a gardening business in Monument, said he was disappointed because he likes to support other small businesses. “I'll either have to drive farther to find another one, or succumb and shop at a big box,” he said.
       Martin said he'll especially miss the “million drawers of things” both of the Westside hardware stores that helped people like himself find the necessary little parts for small household repairs. “If there was a bolt you needed, you could buy it,” he said. “At Home Depot, you have to buy a bag.”
       McFarland, who also works as a conductor for the cog railway in Manitou Springs, said the closures “are going to put a crimp in what we do. There are always screws and bolts you need at a moment's notice.”
       “I'm amazed and aghast that both stores are going under,” Martin said. “I'm hoping somebody's going to come in and fill the void.”

Westside Pioneer article