Hardware Store Burns to the Ground

Friday night blaze destroys Handy Ace Hardware on Cowan Road.

A sudden and devastating fire on Friday evening completely destroyed the two-story building that only recently became the new home of Handy Ace Hardware, a long-time Tucker mainstay.

No injuries have been reported, and the store had closed for the day an hour before the fire started.

Fire crews were called shortly after 7 p.m. to 4365 Cowan Road and were still battling the fierce blaze two hours later. Onlookers watched as the large structure slowly collapsed amid raging flames, billowing smoke and multiple explosions caused by ammunition and combustible gases.  

Jon Howell, a neighbor who lives in a nearby apartment complex, told Patch that propane tanks in front of the building had exploded. "The first thing I heard were three loud bangs. There were flames going up 50 feet in the air when I got here."

Leland Boyer, who was also watching, told Patch: "I saw the front of the store blow off. It was amazing! I hope nobody was in there. A bystander said he was the first one to call the cops because he saw a glow inside before he noticed it was a fire. He thinks a hot grill was brought back into the building but who knows for sure yet."

A couple who had been having dinner at Zaxby's up the street came to see what was going on. "I saw the roof collapse," said a somewhat shocked Mike Burkett.

The hardware store, originally located across the street in the shopping center that houses Sangria's and Inclusif Fitness, had in recent years moved into the new spot, itself a former bowling alley.  

Do you have photos or video of the fire? Please add them to this article by clicking the 'upload' button below the other photos.


Larry December 29, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I woke up this morning and had a few seconds of relief because I thought that I had a terrible dream....this is a huge loss, Handy Hardware is one of the best stores around by far. I'm in there weekly and depend on the helpful staff and availability of hard to find items and everything else. If you don't think this is a tremendous loss than you are an idiot or you never had to repair anything. If there is anything we can do for you please let us know, this community will help. Please rebuild we need this store, we will support you.
Lisa Anderson December 29, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I've only been here 7 years, but adore this store! They know how to fix everything, and always have just the part too. I fixed my fridge with a $3 part they recommended instead of paying $100for a pricer idea....And that's one of many great experienes.... Everyone who works this is awesome! So very very sad too see these pictures. I do hope you rebuild.
Deane December 29, 2012 at 05:28 PM
This is a terrible loss. The employees were/are genuinely friendly people, who seemed happy to help me, and to work in a place where they had the resources to do so. The store carried parts and accessories for items that are needed specifically for the homes built in our area. Handy Hardware had replacements for broken, difficult to find gadgets (especially kitchen gadgets). These people and the store helped me fix and maintain my home, appliances and other items; without their help, I'd have thrown out many things that simply needed a new lightbulb or gasket. I will miss them terribly, and I hope they will rebuild the store, and also be able to recall the employees somehow at that time. Handy Hardware is an important part of our changing community. Living, vital communities change, or else they stagnate, and that's just how things work. It's up to us, the residents - and no one else - to make the changes positive. It's also up to us to decide what not to change, and I hope Handy Hardware can be rebuilt and continue to be an important resource for Tucker.
David W. Hibbert December 29, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Hopefully , the rebuilding will proceed and bring Tucker an even better (if that's even possible) Smith's hardware store. The whole community,save some cranks, mourns this tragic episode. Best wishes for your family.
James Eidson December 29, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Even though I am not family, I feel like I have lost a part of my family. I am very thankful no one was injured with all the explosives there and really do hope you will rebuild and just maybe there will be something salvageable out of all the great things that were in the store. Our prayers are with each of the family and employees during this time of loss. We look forward to your return, hopefully soon.
Russett Roberts December 29, 2012 at 06:47 PM
This was a place for people who love hardware stores and hard to find items. I could spend hours in there finding "treasures". Nothing like it anywhere,period. The staff were extremely knowledgeable and helpful. What is your problem?
Al Tate December 29, 2012 at 07:15 PM
How shallow and insensitive can you possibly be!!!! This hardware store is, in my view THE VERY BEST in Atlanta, and ACE has several very good stores here. What a terrible loss for Tucker and the larger community. Really hope that they have good insurance and can build back.
Allie December 29, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I live on the street next to the ace hardware store and didn't hear any explosions, but if Dekalb fire was so concerned about the dangerous accelerants inside the store, then why didn't they evacuate homes that are close by? There are several homes surrounding this hardware store. As my spouse tried to leave the neighborhood last night a police officer even tried to stop him! Way to go Dekalb fire, thanks for putting the best interest of the communities safety first! NOT! And a defective fire hydrant? I may be moving fairly soon away from dekalb
Kevin Madigan (Editor) December 29, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Thanks to all of you for posting these great photographs. Patch always welcomes input from readers! I'm working on a follow-up article that should be ready for tomorrow morning.
The Scarlet Pimpernel December 29, 2012 at 09:25 PM
I'm sure they knew what they were doing. Why don't we focus on the employees and owner and less about you and the nothing that happened to you.
Haden December 29, 2012 at 09:37 PM
I believe the great tragedy here is the realization that ignorant people like old Whitaker remain in wonderfully progressive communities like this, tainting the environment for the rest of us who love what Tucker has tried to become over the last several years. One cannot honestly expect that anyone of his selfish ilk would be compassionate toward anything, much less the loss of a great community business.
Soles December 29, 2012 at 10:32 PM
So sorry to hear Kim. You all are in our thoughts and prayers from Austin, Tx.
liquid6 December 29, 2012 at 10:45 PM
When I saw the building on fire last night, I thought it was the abandoned black building near there, but I was wrong. I live extremely close to Tucker and enjoy the small town feel that is just a stones through away from Atlanta. I don't know any other place in the Tucker area where I can get my screens redone, or custom cut panes of glass, or a staff that is as friendly and helpful as the ones at Handy Hardware. I was at a big box store today and one of the employees couldn't even tell me where something was. Handy Hardware, if you build it, we will come.
billinTucker December 29, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Ditto Liquid...I always went in with projects and could count on them to help a all thumbs guy. I remember my first yard project water project. I explained what I was trying to do the guy in plumbing had what I needed and told me how to do it. I was trying to build a mountain when all I needed was a molehill. I hate having to go to a "box" now and I even own stock in one of them. I wish the best for the Employees and Owners. You guys made a difference.
J.R. Gilbert December 30, 2012 at 02:08 AM
Joe we love ya and hope you and your family the best through these time as if it's not hard enough these days to loose a gold mine of irreplaceable items that followed you from the well known Smith Hardware you created on East Collage. Thanks for the 50 years of havIng the hard to find and the saying if I don't have I'll get and you and your staff have always been the very best at customer satisfacaction and service. Our family sends their prayers and Thanks for being their for all our needs!
Bob Peppel December 30, 2012 at 07:54 AM
Tucker will never be the same. The store may be replaced but what was lost can never be re-created. As we used to say when I was in the Navy, "Oh shucks".
M Bryan December 30, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Mr Foretenberry - Based on your comment about our beloved Handy Ace, it is my opinion that you have become a poor and bitter old man. I hope your children- probably classmates of mine from Tucker High, class of '70? - help you find peace in your life.
Iggystooge December 30, 2012 at 03:07 PM
The community will want to help anyway we can, regardless if you all decide to rebuild. We need to know how to do that. Please let us know how we can help.
Jerome Masters December 30, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Allie,guess what,you answered your own question.If you could not here the explosions you didn,t need to be forced out of your house.Have to agree with you on hydrant though We all know whats been going on with the services? but thats the elephant in the room
Terry Kimble December 30, 2012 at 05:14 PM
I feel as though a member of my family has lost their home. As a customer of 20 plus years, I knew everyone by first name as they knew mine. My thoughts and prayers first go out to the Smith family and equally to the employees who worked there. I do not live in the Tucker community as some have expressed here.However, it is my hope and prayer that Handy Hardware will rebuild and I as one would gladly donate my time to help in any way possible to make this happen, as I'm sure many who regularly shopped there would do as well. I too grieve for this great historic business that is comparable to no other.Again, my prayers to the Handy Hardware family.
Leland Boyer December 31, 2012 at 04:26 AM
This video captured the front of the store exploding. Fast Forward to about 3:15. Doesn't really even do it justice if you had been there to see it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbMHmQ04yr8
Laura Capps December 31, 2012 at 05:11 AM
I worked for the Smith's at handy hardware back in late nineties and I hate to hear about the loss! The Smith's are good people!
Dianne Dougherty January 01, 2013 at 05:32 PM
All of you, the employees, staff, and owners are in our prayers. Very sad, but the JOY will be in rebuilding and the loving support of your Tucker/Smoke Rise community family.
Lioness January 03, 2013 at 12:35 AM
I am a hardware store junkie and this hardware store was the best! When we were fixing up stuff at my Mom's house this was the only place we could find stuff that worked. We are Tucker born and bred and we will truly miss this store. My sympathies to the family and all that worked here. I am so glad that no one was hurt.
Ben Fortenberry January 03, 2013 at 02:08 PM
from a Whitaker/Fortenberry first learn to spell your own name. Second this is a great loss not only for Tucker and Dekalb but for the people that work there.I work for the same people and I find your comments wrong and sad. My family and myself send our prayers to the owners and to the employee's of Handy Hardware.We look forward to your new begining.
Kimberly. Please contact me. We would like to help you rebuild. Thank you! 678-525-8214. Kevin Simpson
Elizabeth January 03, 2013 at 08:47 PM
We say of the Handy Ace Hardware in Dacula (owned by Matthew Smith): If they don't have it, you don't need it. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Smith family and their employees.
Earl Mitchell January 09, 2013 at 02:03 AM
We are so sorry about the destruction and loss of your business and building due to fire. The Smith family has invested many years of time, money, and hard work into it and I cant imagine the loss all of you must feel. Your store was a destination for many including myself. I was in your store early December looking for an odd faucet valve. A major plumbing supply house didn’t have one like it but recommended “Handy Ace hardware in Tucker”. You certainly have an unmatched business reputation and brand. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with the Smith Family and your employees. Earl Mitchell
Kevin Craig March 07, 2013 at 08:32 PM
I was glad to hear that the store was closed when the fire started. Growing up in Tucker for last 40 years, Handy Hardware and Matthews Cafe are two of the businesses I have supported for many years. Home Depot and Lowes may be bigger but Handy Hardware was the place to go for anything under the sun. The Smith men have been friends for years and I plan on being there for the grand reopening. Take Care, my friends. Kevin
steve dewig March 07, 2013 at 09:27 PM
who is old man Whitaker?


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