When Sharon and Matt Abramsky purchased Tony’s Ace Hardware in Hazel Park ten years ago, they never could have anticipated the challenges presented by today’s COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though their business is deemed essential, allowed to stay open under orders signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the Abramskys opted to close their doors for two weeks before re-opening on Friday, April 17 under limited hours. Rather than allow customers into the store to shop, they ask that they order ahead of time online or by phone. Employees then bring the items to customers’ cars.
The Abramskys could no doubt be making higher profits by opening the shop floor to customers, but they’ve decided that protecting their employees and customers is more important. They even took the extra step to pay their employees while the store was closed.
We asked them all about it.
Metromode: How’s it been going?
Sharon: It’s been really hard. Our parents are out of state and our son lost the end of his junior year of high school. And at the same time, this business is our life. Everything is in it.
During the two weeks leading up to the store closing, I was really frightened for our employees and of course my husband. Things just didn’t feel right. So we closed and then we watched the numbers, listened to what the governor had to say. Now the employees have been at home for two weeks, the store is clean.
Sharon Abramsky, Tony's Ace Hardware, Hazel ParkWhen we re-opened it was one of the best days of my life. We’ve received so much support from the community. We love Hazel Park so much. We’re very grateful.
It’s a huge responsibility, running this store. We’ve received so many stories from people telling us that their dad worked here in high school. People have such an affection for this place. The store has been here since the 1930s. Someone from the Hazel Park historical group told us it’s the oldest business in the city.
Q: What made you decide to close your doors for two weeks?
Sharon: I wasn’t willing to inflict anything on our employees that I wouldn’t inflict on myself or my husband.
We paid them for ever how many hours they would usually be scheduled. We have a great staff. It’s a unique skillset, being an employee at a hardware store. They start to learn a lot about plumbing or electrical work, making them invaluable. It can be a steep learning curve to just come in and work here. So when we closed overnight, we wanted to be able to do the same thing when opening.
We didn’t know how long we would be closed. But that was the easiest decision, keeping everybody employed.
Q: Why not let customers in the store?
Sharon: We’re doing it this way by choice. Hardware stores are considered essential businesses, so we could be open however we want. But for us, our customers are our community. We understand that people want to get out of the house; we just didn’t feel like it was the right time for here yet. If someone got sick because of our store, what would we do? When we were open before shutting down, we weren’t sleeping at night. We’d joke about not knowing how huge a responsibility it would be owning a small hardware store.
We serve police and firemen every day and elderly customers that need our help. There’s a lot of people happy about us re-opening.
Q: What’s next?
Matt: We monitor the numbers from the state every day. If things go right, we could open our doors by early to mid-May. But the goal is to be cautious. Our staff is our number one asset and we have to protect them.
We’re an older store with small aisles; our customers are finding out that a concierge service ain’t a bad way to do business. We bring everything right to your car.
We’re looking forward to the day when it’s a new normal, when it feels good to be busy.Tony’s Ace Hardware is located at 24011 John R Rd. in Hazel Park. They are currently taking orders online or by phone at (248) 541-8790.