Friday night's massive fire at Handy Ace Hardware obliterated what some are calling a "Tucker institution," and there's no word yet on what caused the blaze or whether the owners plan to rebuild.
The business had served the area for five decades, moving three times during that period, and ending up in a handsome, remodelled building with two stories on Cowan Road that was once the Tucker Bowling Alley.
"I used to work here when I was knee-high to a grasshopper," said Chris Shiver of Stone Mountain, gazing at the ruins in the cold light of Saturday morning. "It's heartbreaking to see this."
Customer Gary Scott was also moved by the spectacle. "We've been coming here forever," he told Patch. "If you needed something, they'd get it for you. And if they couldn't get it, that means it just wasn't available anywhere." Scott said he got "cold chills" looking at the devastation and that he actually bowled here during its previous incarnation. "I gotta go," said Scott. "This is killing me."
Gary Frederick, another long-time customer, wondered if anything was being done for the store's 35 employees, who are now of course out of work. "They're good folks. I feel badly for the owner too," he said.
Reader Patty Johnson was among many who posted on Tucker Patch's Facebook page, echoeing what other locals have been saying since Friday: "A great loss to the community. I do hope they will be able to rebuild and open again in the near future!"
"If you rebuild it, we will come," commented L.D. Maxwell on the original Patch article about the fire. Also commenting was Kimberly Smith, a member of the family that owns the store: "I want to thank those of you for the support that you have posted. I will pass this on to him (co-owner Joe Smith). His whole life has been this store and I know he is not ready to retire as of yet so hopefully he will be able to rebuild and soon."
By Sunday afternoon, a tall wire fence was in place surrounding the entirety of what had been the largest Ace Hardware store in the United States, and security guards were keeping onlookers away.
It's been a bad year for business fires in Tucker. A roof fire closed the Moonshadow Tavern in June, and it's finally re-opening this week. In April, a late-night fire put an end to Jack's Package Store, apparently caused by a lit cigarette tossed in a wastepaper basket. Just days later, the entire location of Rock-Tenn Recycling, next to I-285, went up in flames, causing a huge traffic snarl during evening rush hour.