Ask CHS readers what type of business Capitol Hill is missing and a hardware store is sure to be mentioned. Pacific Supply Co., located on 12th Avenue in Pike/Pine since 1995, wants to be the neighborhood-focused hardware store which some have said the Hill is lacking.
Pacific’s management is seeking to expand its product inventory to cater to the increasing residential population of Pike/Pine. The amount of walk-in traffic from homeowners doing basic repair work has increased dramatically, and homeowners are comprising a greater portion of Pacific’s customers than ever before, co-owner Michael Go said.
Pacific Supply was founded nearly 40 years ago in Queen Anne with a clientele consisting primarily of apartment buildings managers in need of off-white shades of wall paint, a doorknob, or perhaps basic plumbing. The store later relocated to Capitol Hill on Belmont Avenue East in the building currently occupied by Half-Price Books. In 1995, Pacific Supply set up shop at its current location at 1417 12th Avenue in a building constructed in 1920 as an auto showroom and repair facility. The building is currently owned by local developer Liz Dunn.
Go, who has owned a stake in the store since 1986, said that as the neighborhood has changed in recent years, so too has the store’s range of customers. “Before, it was a more male-oriented store, more construction workers and contractors,” Go said. “It’s more diverse now. There are people walking in now that weren’t here when we moved in.”
Go and store manager John Bowden are working to broaden the range of products available at Pacific Supply to keep up with the changes in clientele. “For the last five years, we’ve steadily been trying to add to our product mix so we can still service apartments up here but also service homeowners,” Bowden said. Recent additions to the store’s inventory include a broader range of paint colors, Oxo brand kitchen supplies, and a selection of nuts and bolts that extends for more than 20 feet.
Despite their efforts to promote Pacific Supply, they are surprised by how many neighbors are unfamiliar with the store. “Every day we’re getting people walking in saying, ‘We didn’t even know you were here,” Bowden said. Moving forward, they plan to continue modifying the store’s products to better accommodate changing demands in the neighborhood, and they invite customers to make suggestions. “We need [customers’] input,” Bowden said, “because we’re not here for us. We’re here for them.” However, even as the store continues to change with the times, Go and Bowden said the store’s primary focus will remain on hardware.
Go and Bowden said that the store’s nearest competitors are the Lowe’s in Mount Baker and the City Hardware in South Lake Union. However, they admitted that there may be room in Capitol Hill for a second hardware-focused store, though its success would be far from guaranteed. Recently, CHS covered the efforts by Essex Property Trust to bring a hardware store its mixed-use Joule development on Broadway between East Republican Street and East Mercer Street. Essex Property’s Bruce Knoblock said that hardware stores would be unlikely to afford the rents sought at Joule.
“There’s a reason there’s not a lot of little hardware stores,” Bowden said. “It’s the cost of renting space, the gross margins are lower, the cost of employees is expensive, and [predicting] the number of sales they would accurately do makes it hard to do business.” However, he added that he is certain that every major hardware store chain has entertained the possibility of opening a store in Capitol Hill.
In fact, Go said that he himself even considered affiliating Pacific Supply with a national chain, as City Hardware did with Ace. “We looked into going with Ace or True Value, but it required putting a giant sign over your building façade,” Go said. Remaining independent also allows Pacific Supply to assert greater flexibility in determining its pricing than affiliating with a chain would have allowed. Bowden added, “You lose your identity as a small neighborhood store.”
CHS spoke with representatives of True Value about the factors that influence the company’s consideration of new locations. Director of business development Eric Lane said that while True Value’s primary focus is on suburban and small town markets, the company does consider urban locations on a market-by-market basis. And, while True Value receives hundreds of calls annually about potential opportunities, the company’s decision is influenced by a set of general requirements. In an existing building, the company requires 10,000 to 20,000 square-foot or larger spaces which can be subdivided to meet the store’s needs. Lane said True Value would also consider locating in an existing shopping complex with a strong anchor and/or a junior anchor tenants such as a grocery store, pharmacy, or auto parts store. The company is also open to locating in free-standing buildings or on undeveloped land, though such locations might not be ideal in an urban setting like Capitol Hill.
“If there is a perfect site (provided by a real estate developer) in the Seattle area or anywhere across the country for that matter, and a qualified investor, True Value would certainly be willing to open a store in the Seattle market and even offer incentives to assist the qualified entrepreneur/investor,” Lane said.
Pacific Supply is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm, Saturdays from 9 am to 5 pm, and Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm. You can find out more — and see a groovy zoomable display of all the nuts and bolts they offer — at http://www.pacsupply.com/