January 18, 2011 > Expansion demolition
By William Marshak
It seems like a contradiction, but the first step in building is often destruction. On January 13, amid a steady rain from clouds above, a sole worker sprayed water from a hose on demolition of a familiar faŤade in Fremont. Dale Hardware's sign and a portion of its frontage near Post Street facing Thornton Avenue, a Fremont icon for decades, succumbed to the jaws of heavy equipment. As masonry and steel braces tumbled to the ground and were quickly loaded into a waiting truck, a steady stream of customers arrived and left from a temporary entrance facing Moraine Street.
Many months of behind-the-scenes planning have now become visible as architectural drawings are transformed into physical changes. A major expansion of the venerable hardware store will not only enlarge its building footprint but bring significant enhancement to products offered by Dale Hardware. Garth Smith, owner and son of Dale Hardware founders, Bill and Elinor Smith, emphasizes that expansion will not alter its exceptional service model.
Fate of the Unified Site across Post Street from the Dale Hardware construction is separated entirely from this project. Smith says, "We made the decision about two and a half years ago that whatever happens there is going to happen. In 2005, after several unsuccessful plan iterations for the Unified Site, I approached the City about enlarging Dale Hardware by expanding toward Fremont Boulevard, using a portion of the site if Post Street was closed." After consideration of the idea, it was rejected. Smith says he thinks it was "too much out of the box" for the City at that time. Following the City's decision, Smith decided to go ahead with his own plans without waiting for action at the Unified Site.
Since solidifying the concept for the store's growth to nearly 100,000 square feet including additional hardware sales area, a fully enclosed lumber yard and greenhouse garden center, Smith says there have not been any major changes. He added that when architectural plans collided with fiscal reality, "value engineering - another way of saying 'cost-cutting' - changed some details but the overall size and various facets of the project remain unchanged." Plans for a food concession within the Dale complex are, for the moment, on hold due to cost considerations. Smith notes that the plumbing and infrastructure for this amenity are, however, included.
Although at the beginning of the construction phase, Smith says that, so far, things are moving smoothly and ahead of schedule. He is realistic about the timeline and is aware that challenges are ahead which could cause delays. Construction will be in three phases:
Phase 1 will include expansion of existing retail space and the new nursery addition expected to be completed by the first week of August 2011. At that time, the new "official" entrance will be in operation.
Phase II - drive-thru lumber yard - will begin immediately upon completion of Phase I in the area now used for temporary parking along Moraine Street. It is expected to be completed early 2012.
Finally, Phase III will remove the existing building - former post office and Bogies Pet Supply - along Thornton Avenue now used as a temporary warehouse. The parking area and improvements of that section will move 60 feet into Thornton Avenue.
Although not immune from present economic conditions, the decision to expand was made due to confidence in continuing public support of Dale Hardware. Smith says, "This is a service that the public likes and has shown us by their patronage. Over the years, we have outgrown ourselves and continue to add products and categories of products. There are things we have wanted to bring into our store but do not have the space to do it." Expansion was a choice between adding another store somewhere else or to "bust out the walls and bring those categories of merchandise into this location. We made the decision to enlarge this facility."
Although a family owned business, Smith notes that "Dale Hardware is much more; there are seven employees with over 25 years of service and 12 more with over 20 years. They are very capable, committed and vital to our operation. We rely on these people. It is a huge team effort." Asked about the key ingredient of Dale Hardware success, Smith replies, "It is truly the focus on customer service; what the customer wants and expects and their experience. We know that you have to make a profit to run a business, but we do not allow maximizing the dollar to drive all decisions."
At the forefront of business leadership in the City of Fremont, Dale Hardware has maintained a solid commitment to the citizens and welfare of Centerville, Fremont, surrounding cities and the Bay Area. In an era of big box competition, Dale Hardware has not only managed to maintain its business model, but successfully competed for a large share of local and regional business.
The Dale Hardware expansion project is expected to be complete by the second quarter of 2012.
37100 Post Street, Fremont