Berkeley Ace Hardware looks to move to Andronico’s site

Berkeley Hardware has been in its present site for 50 years. The proposed move will take it west on University. Photo: Lance Knobel

Berkeley Ace Hardware, which has been in its present site at 2145 University Avenue for 50 years (and in business near that site since 1895), looks poised to move to the old Andronico’s building at 1414 University Avenue. The lease has not yet been signed by Berkeley Ace Hardware’s owners, Bill and Virginia Carpenter, but realtor Michael Korman said a “fundamental agreement” had been reached.

“We hope this will go,” Korman said. “It looks very promising.”

Berkeley Hardware’s move has been spurred by the planned Acheson Commons development, which will see the construction of 205 new residential units in the block that includes the hardware store. The landmarked exterior of Berkeley Ace Hardware will be preserved, but the closure during construction made relocation imperative if the store was to continue in business. The parking area currently behind the hardware store will also be lost in the redevelopment.

Berkeley Hardware is the oldest operating business in Berkeley aside from the University of California.

The old Andronico’s site, on the corner of University and Acton, provides 25,000 sq ft of retail space and parking. The space would enable Berkeley Ace Hardware to maintain its current stock levels, including the treasure trove of model kits and trains in the basement of the current store, according to a source close to the deal.

The 1414 University site is in “pretty good shape”, according to Korman, but work will be necessary to convert the store from its former use to the hardware store. Accessible bathrooms will also be required.

Andronico’s, founded in Berkeley in 1929, closed its University Avenue and Telegraph Avenue stores as part of a restructuring after declaring bankruptcy in August 2011. The company’s five remaining stores have been revamped with investment by owner Renovo Capital.

The crucial Christmas retail season is the critical element in the timing of the Berkeley Ace Hardware move, provided the lease is signed. Either the store will be in the new site by November 1 — which would depend on a breakneck pace of permitting by the city, as well as quick refurbishment — or the move will occur in the new year.

Acheson Commons: new large-scale change for downtown [04.09.12]
Infusion of money should spiff up remaining Andronico’s [11.30.11]

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  • EBGuy

     Charles, I always enjoy your thoughtful comments (so I’m not trying to pick a fight here), but I’m wondering what’s appropriate for a city with Berkeley’s density.  I think its fair to think of most of University Ave as an extension of downtown (via the 51B, as berkeleyfarm mentioned above).  The 51B operates at 10 and 12 minute headways — that’s basically like access to a taxicab along this corridor (and it gets even better with NextBus).  I know, slim consolation to seniors at Strawberry Creek who used to stroll across the street Andronico’s, but still, this type of bus service makes it pretty easy to pop over to TJs.

  • Charles_Siegel

     Yep, it was the first store of the late, lamented Consumer Cooperative of Berkeley. 

    I think it may have been the earliest modern supermarket building in Berkeley.  Its urban design is transitional, with an entrance facing the University Ave sidewalk to accommodate pedestrians and an entrance facing the parking lot to accommodate drivers. 

    Earlier stores just had entrances facing the sidewalk, and if you parked in back, you had to walk around to the front to enter (like the current Ace Hardware). 

    Later supermarkets just had an entrance facing the parking lot, and pedestrians had to walk through the parking lot to enter (like north Shattuck Andronicos and Whole Foods, two other buildings that were originally CCB). 

    Trader Joes brings us back to two-entrance model, one for pedestrians and one for drivers.  Needless to say, the facade facing the sidewalk at TJs is much more appealing than the University Ave site where Ace is moving. 

    I hope Ace can alter that facade so it has larger windows facing the sidewalk, to cheer up this stretch of University Ave.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Good point.  And some of the formerly high end brands have been snapped up by lower end concerns that are using those brands on less well made products.

  • BBnet3000

    Downtown may be a better location for more people to get to the hardware store. Theres also a True Value hardware (admittedly nothing as good as Berkeley Ace) on San Pablo already for basic needs in that area.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I think it makes perfect sense for people who live near downtown to take the bus to downtown to shop. 

    It makes less sense for people in downtown to have to take the bus to surrounding areas to do necessary shopping.  I am not against downtown residents shopping in in the surrounding area, of course, but I would like to see downtown be a “pedestrian pocket” where it is convenient to live and do your necessary shopping by walking.

    That sort of pedestrian pocket is all too uncommon in America today. 

  • Rachel Anderson

    Ever since that “hatchet handle incident” with Ace products, I actually avoid them if possible.

  • Guest

    There’s a fascinating portrait of Paul Hawken, the man who made millions selling fabulously expensive artisanal garden tools and lawn furniture (believe me, your stock portfolio had better be doing pretty damned well if you want to buy so much as a trowel from Smith & Hawken) in Michael Downing’s book, Shoes Outside the Door.  It’s a actually a history of the San Francisco Zen Center, but Hawken features prominently.  The evidence suggests that this is a man quite willing to enrich himself on other peoples’ backs.  Anyone can talk a good line, but if your actions don’t line up with your words…phooey.

    And Rudolf Steiner…oh, my.  You can read all about him here:


  • Guest

    True…and while their at it, maybe they can find a way to ventilate the new location so the pesticide and fertilizer fumes don’t knock you out when you get within ten feet of the garden section.

  • Guest

     (…while they’re at it…)

  • serkes

    I always try to shop at Berkeley Ace whenever I need hardware … will definitely miss the old-hardware-store feeling of the place with the wood floor and handrails painted a zillion times (like the old wooden handrails on the NYC El) … glad they’ll still be around, but will make another nostalgic memory like Hink’s; Edy’s, Hink’s Parking Lot, the corner place which sold newspapers (kitty corner from current Ace location) … and so on

    “That used to be…”


  • guest

    This is horrible news. 

    I was a maintenance manager at one of the student co-ops for two years, and it would have literally been impossible for me to do the job if there wasn’t a hardware store within walking distance. 

    There are a lot of people living and working in the neighborhoods east (and north) of downtown who don’t have cars.  This is really the only halfway-decent hardware store nearby that’s easily accessible without driving; the only other place that comes close is Pastime, but that usually requires going downtown first and getting on BART.

  • Charles_Siegel

     About half the residents of downtown don’t have cars, and this will make life a bit harder for many of them. 

  • Berkeleyfarm

     Charles, I’m genuinely curious where you got that from what I wrote. I was
    attempting to make substantive observations about the proposed site in reaction
    to the specifics in your comment (which contained specific objections). I
    have lived two blocks away for the last twenty years so know the area well and
    am qualified to comment. (*) For extra credit, do you really think that
    kinglet749 or I don’t think there should be a hardware store in any “other
    neighborhoods”, including downtown, or that downtown should not have a wide
    range of “walkable” businesses to support residents and workers?    

    Keep in mind that I was responding to _what you actually wrote_. If you
    really meant something else … that’s fine. Take a deep breath and try to
    “use your words” again to say it. It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t
    come out as “what you meant” the first time, or you didn’t think something
    completely through in the heat of the moment and someone fact-checks you. It
    happens even to the best-informed, best-mannered, and most-articulate of us.
    How you react to it when it happens is ultimately what is important in
    furthering … or not furthering … discussion and your reputation in the
    community. Choose that reaction wisely.

    (*) When I first skimmed the article, I thought it was the Telegraph
    Andronico’s that was the proposed site. I’d be in favor of that, too … I am
    in favor of Berkeley Ace staying in business.  Downtown would be better IMO for Berkeley Ace … a new market would be better IMO for either of the Andronico’s … but this isn’t bad!

  • guest

    I know it is not as convenient but the new location is just one bart stop or a short bus ride away.

  • Billbartell

    the 205 new units for well-to-do students is replacing our 117 year-old hardware store ?? Oh, so what ELSE is new ?? — let’s see if the city will actually help Berkeley Ace move and stay alive– either way, a classic institution & piece of history is about to be lost to UC-related development.

  • Cat

    I’m OK with this. Now they’ll have room for their trains :-)

  • Cat

     That True Value’s been skidding downhill for a couple of years. Empty shelves, not a lot of merchandise. Part of it is because they’re suffering not having a parking lot.

  • Cat

     The 1414 University location is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. There are plenty of people who can walk to it. The old location, btw, does have a parking lot.

  • Guest

    Wow, TizziLish: nice summation.

  • Guest is a very, very biased website by people with an axe to grind. Maybe check out wikipedia for better info.

  • Guest III

    The fact that they don’t like Steiner’s philosophy, or Waldorf schools, does not mean that their information is bad.  Most of the off-site articles they link to are well-researched, and they are not all by the same handful of people.  The authors are from all over the US; Canada and several other European countries are also represented.  Rudolf Steiner gives a LOT of people the creeps, not just a few disguntled Waldorf parents. 

  • Guest III

     (edit: Canada and several European countries)

  • Sydthekyd

    “Other Berkeley?”

  • What a great location. Thank the gods, not another CVS or Walgreens!  Now it’s going to be right in the middle of town. I have friends who just moved to Action and Addison, some of the young families moving into West Berkeley, they are thrilled. There’s plenty of grocery with TJ’s up the street and Berkeley Bowl near by. Keeping a large hardware store that’s independent is really a hard one, especially one with thousands of great model kits, HO scale trains and cool stuff you can’t possibly find anywhere else within 40 miles of here. I grew up with this place and it’s still my 7 year olds favorite hardware store. 

  • GC

    I live at Acton/Channing and sorely miss Andronicos as the only walking distance grocery store we had.  Berkeley Bowl, TJs’, and Monterey Market are quite far to walk from here, at ~ 20 minutes each way. (and that’s quite a walk with a bag of groceries).  I am sorry that Andronicos couldn’t find the right formula for survival at that location.  That said, I’ll enjoy the new hardware store, and I’m glad it’s not a Dollar Tree.