BY MAGGIE BEAMGUARD
Frequent travelers along the N.C. 211 corridor through Seven Lakes have had cause over recent years to measure with their eyes where the road’s new lanes will land. With clearing and grubbing now underway, it’s increasingly obvious just how close a shave it will be for some buildings.
Seven Lakes Ace Hardware and its neighbor Greenebow’s restaurant are in one such location. While they will lose their parking along the front, their buildings will be spared the bulldozer.
The hardware store is the second Ace Hardware owned and operated by Randy Saunders and his business partners wife, Jill, and sister, Kathy Hooper. The three make a complementary team with varied expertise.
“I crank the bus and drive it, and they make sure we’re going in the right direction,” Randy Saunders said of their dynamic.
When the family opened the Seven Lakes store in 2017, they were aware that they would eventually make changes to accommodate the highway project.
“We knew this was coming,” Saunders said. “We knew that the garden center would have to relocate. As time went on, and the greenhouse in our Southern Pines store became so integral to what we were doing, we desperately needed to expand in both locations. So that’s a big focus.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Saunders says they have seen tremendous growth in their garden business as people took up new interests in houseplants and gardening.
The garden center of the Southern Pines store will be tripling in size with a new location next to its current space near the Moore County Airport. The Seven Lakes garden center will move to the back of the store near the lumber area. It will also feature a new 2000-square-foot greenhouse to give greater flexibility with offerings.
Heaters for the winter and curtains that open in the summer will allow for plants year round. The greenhouse will also be accessible from inside the store and will have a separate checkout. A new shade structure will provide a comfortable shopping experience for customers.
Saunders is looking forward to offering a greater variety of trees and shrubs and outdoor furniture in the transformed space.
“There’ll be music pumped out there,” Saunders said, “and it’ll be a nice spot for people to go.”
The multi-seasonal opportunities are a plus for garden center manager Meredith French.
“I’m looking forward to being able to work in garden year round now,” she said. “When Christmas trees are over in December, I usually am more inside and I help out on the floor. But just having plants in here all year round — our customers are looking forward to it too. They really are.”
The grand opening of the garden center is May 5-7 and will feature different promotions each day, free Dippin’ Dots for kids 12 and under while they last, cooking demonstrations, and a day when customers can receive 20 percent off what they can put in a five gallon bucket.
“There will be lots of specials in the garden center. We’ll have specials on hanging baskets, ferns, and some patio furniture specials and some specials will be throughout the store,” said Saunders.
There will also be drawings and free giveaways, including a giveaway for an Ace Handyman, a new business they started in January.
“We have four craftsmen who can do over 1000 different jobs. Right now we are actually painting almost the entire inside of someone’s home,” said Saunders.
There is a separate number for this service and estimates are done over the phone. They have done a variety of projects, including hanging pictures, changing light bulbs, spreading pine straw, pressure washing and have even remodeled a mudroom.
Saunders is most excited that they will be able to do gardening right at the Seven Lakes location.
“Garden is a passion for both of our stores. It’s a big part of what we do,” he said. “Our team is so excited to be able to have it the way we’ve wanted it to be from the beginning. It’s going to be fun.”
French concurs: “I just want to see how people love it. I think our customers are really looking forward to it.”
Contact Maggie Beamguard at email@example.com.