After The Fire: Locals Lament Loss

Within a couple of hours, a 'Tucker institution' came to a dramatic end. We have reaction from residents.

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.   

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Anita December 31, 2012 at 07:01 AM
Great article! The owners of Handy Ace Hardware are amazing & humble people. Our thoughts & prayers are with them & their employees @ this time. I hope that our Tucker Community as a whole can stand united to support this local, family-run business at a time when they need it most! :-)
David Binder December 31, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Having grown up in Tucker since the early 70's, Handy Ace was always my "go to" place. I think it was stated previoulsy, but it's true, whatever you needed they had. It was a nice place too if you just happened to be in the area with time to kill. The employees are all so friendly & helpful. I look forward to sseing Handy Ace, like a Phoenix, rise from the ashes & be better than ever.
Liane Schleifer December 31, 2012 at 01:12 PM
I hope the owners find the energy to rebuild or alternatively find a way that the employees might do it. I can't imagine a Tucker without Handy Hardware. It was the ultimate hardware store with fabulous employees who knew their stuff like no one else. Pete in Hardware hates a puzzle. He will track that part down to the end of the earth. A place like this needs to be reborn. How can the community help? Please let us know.
Guy Midvale December 31, 2012 at 01:55 PM
As an incompetent DIY person, Handy Hardware was the only place I could go to get help. When I didn't know what something was called, or what I needed, the staff could help me every time. I hope they rebuild. Tucker wouldn't be the same without them.
horsesense December 31, 2012 at 02:30 PM
REBUILD ...please
Joy December 31, 2012 at 02:49 PM
A Tuckerite for a mere 13 years, I have talked widely and fondly of our Handy Ace Hardware store to so many people. I didn't know the owners or workers, but every time I stepped into that store was like a visit to Disneyland. The people were so NICE, so knowledgeable and accommodating! They grinned at my dog as I sought out whatever. They took pity on this single, fumble-fingered lady and assembled the lawn mower I bought 2 years ago. They helped me find paint; sealer; screws. I got my favorite Carhart shorts there! If I was a DIY'er I would have spent MUCH more time and money at that store! It's New Year's Eve and I'm thinking of the owners and even moreso, the employees who are out of work at least for now. Hoping they'll re-build, knowing no other business can ever take their place, I wish them GOOD LUCK as they sort things out. May the New Year bring good news and good luck to all of you. One thing for sure, the Tucker community stands behind you! Wish I could help!!! - JSJ
S L D December 31, 2012 at 03:12 PM
They were never helpful to me, acted like I was taking time away from their precious chatter. They should have spent more time in merchandising and less on shooting th breeze.
Cheryl Miller December 31, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Part of the reason Ace Hardware has survived the times in a marketplace with large competitors like Home Depot and Lowe's is the investment they make in their people and the good neighbor atmosphere that creates for the people who come there to shop. We heard the explosions the night of the fire and thought it must have been fireworks at Stone Mountain. To see the news about the fire was shocking and sad as you could see on the faces of the employees how much the store meant to them and how badly it felt to see it going up in flames like that. We truly hope that Ace will rebuild because the store was not made great by the foundation or the walls which can always be built again (especially if you are a hardware store, right?) but by the attitude of kindness and respect of the owners and those they employed. That is a big part of what makes Tucker a great place to live.
Laura Abadie December 31, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I have referred countless folks to Handy Ace Hardware over the years. As and artist and custom picture framer, there were always items I could find at HAH that could be found no where else...it was always a pleasure to visit. I could spend hours just perusing the isles, and all the wonderful variety of product! Here's to a swift recovery for Handy Ace Hardware ~ may your insurance adjustors be positive, swift and just in their assessment! Here's to a new and better store!
LizBeth Roberts December 31, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I am with the poster on the treatment the employees gave to the public. Sorry, but they are a bunch of surley men!! Am I one bit happy their establishment burnt down? God No!!! But I find it hard to believe that more people didn't notice how irritated they were to answer a question or provide help. This was not all the employees, but enough for me to go to the handy ace at Toco Hills. On one occasion i went there to browse. I had my sons with be. I admonished them sternly to stay by my side and not touch anytihing. This could not stave off the gal who hovered so much it was ridiculous. So we left. If they liked you they liked you and if they didn't...find another store
Lorene Evans January 01, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Glad to know the positive comments outweigh the negative comments! Rebuild and your loyal customers will come back!
Cece January 01, 2013 at 03:25 AM
I am heartbroken. Please come back. What will I (we, the community) do without you? Thinking of all the wonderful employees...my heart goes out to you, my thoughts are with you
Laura Yedvobnick January 01, 2013 at 02:18 PM
To all those with the negative comments- does it make you feel good to beat someone when they are already down? Shame on you.
Iggystooge January 01, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Gee Lizbeth and SLD, maybe you were the reason you believe they were irritated to answer your question. Did you great them with a smile, and ask if they could help you? Doubtful, 'cause I did, and never was met with a surly attitude by any of them. These folks are immediately out of a job, if you want to be negative, wait until there is a new Handy and they have jobs again.
Lisa Anderson January 02, 2013 at 02:54 AM
I have been to many Home Depots where as a gal, I get no help what so ever, and if I return with my husband (even though I'm the fix it person in the house) then I get help. Forget it. When I went to Ace (and I did often!) I could take a picture on my camera of what was broken at home I was trying to fix... and get good advice and the part to fix it up! I do hope they let the community know what we can do to help!
Philip Covin January 02, 2013 at 03:12 PM
I am so sorry to hear of the loss of Handy Ace. The owner, Joe Smith, is a kind, wonderful person, and I know this has to be tough for the whole Handy Ace family. My condolences to all who lost their work home (hopefully temporarily) and hope to see you rebuild soon.
John January 02, 2013 at 10:08 PM
The owner just announced that the 3rd generation store will be rebuilt!!!!
Michael de Give January 03, 2013 at 01:59 AM
Where am I going to find that rare and hard to get faucet valve stem for the hundreds of clients that I serve? You guys are the best in town. The only one even close is down by the airport. I wish you the best in getting open again. You have become indispensable.
John Powell January 03, 2013 at 02:31 AM
Try General Hardware on Peachtree Industrial. I think the two stores are related.
Kimberly Smith January 03, 2013 at 03:20 AM
Yes they have two other locations, one is General Hardware in Brookhaven on Peachtree Road and Handy Ace Hardware in Dacula on Highway 29.
R Wise January 03, 2013 at 07:52 AM
My mother & I went by the remains today, and we were not alone! During the time we were parked across the street in the parking lot, at least 30-40 additional mourners stopped, took pictures, called acquaintances, and in general just stood in sadness. During the hard times in my life I've always known there would be a big smile waiting for me at Handy Ace Hardware! I have visited those gorgeous, wind chimes. You know the ones with the beautiful deep tones, hanging up front? I promised I'd go back for them. Would it help if we made advance orders? I can definitely wait for the store to be rebuilt! We're keeping the Smith family and all the employees in our prayers, and Tucker won't feel like home until the Handy Ace Hardware is back! Much thanks, too, for all the love you have given to your customers!
Sara Brown January 03, 2013 at 04:27 PM
I came in once to find a lock for my outdoor water spigot and the employee looking for it wanted to know if it was "niggers" helping themselves to my water. That was the day I decided that even Handy Ace didn't have anything I couldn't find elsewhere or do without.
Harper January 04, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Every small town needs a family-owned hardware store staffed with old-timers who can share their wisdom. Tucker has always felt like Mayberry to me (in a good way) and Handy Hardware was one of the places that made me happy to live in this wonderful community.
Bill Grant January 08, 2013 at 10:02 PM
As a long time customer I couldn't go by the store until today and cried all the way home. Even though I liked the old location better, the new store was beginning to grow on me. I hope Mr Smith can rebuild and soon. I am 70 and can't wait too long. If there are financial concerns, perhaps we customers can help like we did to rebuild the Dekalb Farmers Market after it collapsed many years ago.
Neil F January 09, 2013 at 06:56 AM
Well let me ask you now, Joe Smith, how important was it to instruct your employee to actually call me and insist I return to the store to pay back the measly 10% discount the cashier inadvertently took from the pair of boots I bought on one of my DAILY trips to your store? That on top of the slave wages you paid your employees are just a couple examples of your "scrooge" ways. You reap what you sow. Neil F.
Laurie Smith Benefield January 11, 2013 at 02:58 AM
Thank you all for your amazing support for Handy Ace Hardware! For those of you that know Joe Smith, know that he is the most caring man and will go to any length to help you get what you need. In any business, school system, church, and so on…there will always be “negative” things to happen. Unfortunately, one person cannot control that all on his own. I believe there are many more positive things about Handy Ace Hardware than the negative. My mom always taught me “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!” I am a very proud daughter of Joe Smith and will always be a hardware girl!
The Scarlet Pimpernel January 11, 2013 at 06:41 AM


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