Owners plan gala to christen new facility
by: Rick Swart, Ace Hardware owner Spud Sandberg (right) and manager Nick Hartman (left) wait on Loren Conn (center) at their new St. Helens store, which opened at the corner of Highway 30 and Columbia Boulevard in St. Helens on April 18. The store will host a three-day grand opening celebration starting Friday.

For 35 years, Ace has been the place where Columbia County residents have gone for tools, hardware, paint, plumbing and electrical supplies, and everything else under the sun.

This week Ace Hardware owners 'Spud' and Leona Sandberg will reach another milestone when they celebrate the opening of their third, and by far their largest store, at a high-profile location in St. Helens.

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday they will host the grand opening of their new 20,000 square-foot facility at the corner of Highway 30 and Columbia Boulevard.

Customers will find 45 aisles of merchandise in the Sandbergs' most ambitious project in more than three decades of service to Columbia County residents.

'It's just amazing,' said Duane Easter of Columbia City, a longtime Ace customer who got his first look at the new store last week. 'I would have thought it would take a year to put this much stuff in here.'

It didn't take a year, but the Sandbergs and their 50 employees have been working overtime for months putting down new flooring, painting, installing new insulation, setting up fixtures and generally sprucing up the brick building that formerly housed Hi-School Pharmacy.

In reality, the new store has been three years in the planning, according to Spud.

'We've run out of space at the other stores,' he said, 'This just seemed like the right thing to do.'

With the new location, the Sandbergs have added Benjamin Moore to their lineup of paint, plus expanded electrical, plumbing and workwear sections and the largest inventory of nuts and bolts in the county. The new store also has a customer service center that offers screen repair as well as pipe, Plexiglas and key cutting.

Nick Hartman, a former employee of Red Apple Grocery, has been hired to run the new store, which is open seven days a week. Hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8-7 on Saturday, and 9-5 on Sunday. The other two stores - one in Scappoose and a second store in St. Helens - will continue to operate as they have in the past, according to Sandberg.

The Sandbergs have managed under the Ace brand since 1972 or 1973 when they converted their Scappoose store from Western Auto to Ace. Spud said they like Ace because 'they are aggressive enough to look to the future and help each store owner with his own needs.'

Their three-day grand opening is crowded with all kinds of promotions, including free refreshments throughout, 'spin-to-win' prizes, a ribbon cutting, a clown and a magician, square dancing, as well as live music by the band Hit Machine from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

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