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New hardware center touts virtues of small box store

Orchard Supply to open first Oregon stores in Beaverton and Tigard on Saturday


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Mike Wickstrom and Joe Kelley, store manager and regional operations manager, respectively, for Orchard Supply Hardware, show off the nursery at the store's Barnes Road location, which will open on Saturday, April 27.For the truly old-school home improvement types, the crowded aisles and one-on-one customer service at the proverbial corner hardware store will always reign supreme over the “big box” retail megastores.

A new style of hardware store opening this weekend in Cedar Mill aims to split the difference between the warmth of your grandfather’s hardware store and the selection and convenience of the boxed behemoths. The San Jose, Calif.-based Orchard Supply Hardware will unveil itself to Oregon by opening two stores this Saturday at 7 a.m., one at 10860 S.W. Barnes Road near Beaverton and another at 9770 S.W. Scholls Ferry Road in Tigard across from the Washington Square Mall.

The grand opening event will include a $5,000 “Paint Your House” giveaway contest, a presentation of $1,000 checks to William Walker Elementary School in Beaverton and Mary Woodward Elementary School in Tigard, and various how-to demonstrations. The first 1,000 in line will receive and Orchard gift bucket with an assortment of tools, and the first 200 will get gift cards.

Joe Kelley, Orchard’s regional operations manager, says the stores cater to customers who like selection, service and convenient parking without the intimidation and navigational hassles of sprawling box stores.

“Customers are looking for this,” he says while showing off the newly completed, 41,000-square-foot store on Barnes Road. “Our focus groups told us customers are tired of box stores, the Walmarts and the Targets. They only go there because they have to.”

Unlike the brightly lit, warehouse environments of its larger competitors, Orchard stores project a low-key, unhurried ambience. Multi-colored walls denote different departments, which include a workbench area including tool sharpening, chainsaw repair and a full-service bicycle service center, an expansive selection of spooled chains and cables, a section with seemingly every type of decorative hook and knob imaginable, and a 12,000-square-foot nursery in a fenced-in outside area.

Instead of long, parallel rows of merchandise shelves, Orchard is laid out with both horizontal and vertical aisles connected by a “racetrack”-like perimeter that allows for easy traffic flow and minimizes customers’ chances of getting hopelessly lost in the plumbing section on their way to browse bird feeders.

“We like to be considered the Whole Foods version of a hardware store,” Kelley says with a grin. “Who says you can’t have a place you walk into that’s this nice and still be in the warehouse style?”

To staff the new Oregon stores, Kelley and other Orchard associates hosted a hiring fair this spring at the Oregon Zoo, where they interviewed 600 candidates — narrowed down from 1,000 applicants — in two days, filling a total of 160 part- and full-time positions.

Mike Wickstrom, general manager of the Barnes Road store, said he left a job with a tool company in Medford based on the positive impression he picked up from the Orchard team.

“I made my career move based on management,” he says. “I didn’t need to leave the good job I had. I liked these guys, and I liked the company.”

Greg Bowman, a 10-year Beaverton resident who lives near Allen Boulevard and Highway 217, says he was pleased to land at Orchard following a period of financial uncertainty.

“Unemployment is a big issue in the area, and it was for me personally,” the 55-year-old says. “At Orchard, I see opportunities for advancement. And the practical reality is it’s seven minutes from my house.”

Comparing Orchard to a high-end department store, Bowman described its customer-intense focus as “Nordstrom’s-like” service, but “bringing it into the do-it-yourself world. It’s do-it-yourself heaven here.”

Noting that Orchard started as a farmers’ cooperative in San Jose in 1931, Kelley says Orchard’s mission is to provide an appealing alternative to the big-box status quo. Based on the company’s 82-year history, it would appear Orchard is able to co-exist quite well in a world of large-scale home improvement centers.

“We’ve survived 82 years with them invading,” he says.




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