Business & economy, In the community

Ontario’s Ace Hardware offers tools, paint, rentals and . . . beer

ONTARIO – Going to the hardware store is often a search for a specific item.

Plumbing equipment. Or a new light fixture.

But beer?

At Ontario’s Ace Hardware store on Southwest 4th Street, gliding down the aisles with a cold craft beer in hand is now part of the shopping experience.

Tucked into a corner of the store near the soap section, Zach and Tori Thatcher opened “The Bar at Ontario Ace” last fall.

The bar offers craft beers, wine on tap and coffee. The duo elected to do a “soft opening” of the new feature, said Tori Thatcher.

“We took about a month to do the final touches and get everything up and running,” said Thatcher.

The bar area includes a bar top, 16 seats and “a kind of couch seating area,” said Thatcher.

Thatcher said the bar offers wheat, stout and India pale ale beers. The bar also offers cider on tap, wine and domestic beers – such as Coors Light – for sale in the bottle.  

Around the bar Thatcher said she “kind of created a boutique home goods area.”

“That’s house plants, kitchen ware, things like that. It is kind of its own little store inside the store,” said Thatcher.

The bar, said Thatcher, was a marriage of ideas that stems from her and Zach’s background.

Tori, 30, and Zach, 31, grew up in Baker City. There Zach’s family was in the hardware business while Tori’s father owned and operated Barley Brown’s Beer, a brewery and restaurant.

When the couple decided last spring to buy Ontario Ace Hardware – formerly Kinney Bros & Keele True Value Hardware – Tori said a key condition for her was the prospect of opening a small bar.

“We had an agreement that there would be a little section where I could do my thing. I didn’t know how people were going to feel but I wanted to try it,” said Thatcher.

Tori said the liquor license includes the whole store.

“People come in a question it and say, really, I can just carry this beer around? I tell them, yes, as long as you don’t walk out the door with it,” said Thatcher.

The Thatcher’s didn’t advertise the new bar because they “wanted to get it out there on its own,” said Tori.

“So far we’ve gotten really positive feedback. It is starting to pick up on the weekends,” said Thatcher.

Thatcher said in December the store used the bar as the centerpiece of a special ladies night celebration with live music.

“So far it’s going really good,” said Thatcher.

Thatcher said the couple is “tossing around” the idea of doing a live music night at the store “when the weather gets nicer and people are more out and about.”

A realization that the hardware store also contains a bar is getting around, said Thatcher.

“Customers can grab a beer and walk around and shop,” said Thatcher.

The new bar wasn’t the only changes the Thatcher’s made to the store.

“We did an entire remodel of the store, top to bottom. We moved product around, all new lighting,” said Thatcher.
“It was a lot of work for the first few months. Once we got through it and ever since our grand opening, we’ve had really positive feedback from the community,” said Thatcher.

Thatcher said the couple had not owned or operated a business before they bought the Ontario hardware operation.

“It’s been a learning curve definitely. It’s been a challenge and every day has something new,” said Thatcher.

The store employs more than 20 people.

So far, Thatcher said, owning a hardware store that offers beer is “going really well.”

“I think now that people are seeing what we did in a positive light and seeing all the new exciting changes we’ve made it is starting to turn around,” said Thatcher.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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