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Rylee's considers neighborhood needs, aesthetic with growth to West Side

Rylee's Ace Hardware replaces abandoned gas station on West Fulton with a new neighborhood store, bringing more employment opportunities and hardware solutions to the West Side of the city.
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Rylee's Ace Hardware celebrates Grand Opening April 19-21.

Rylee's new store on Fulton will be holding grand opening celebrations this coming weekend April 19-21.

"There will be a number of discounts at the store on all kinds of items, from garden furniture to propane tanks," explains Vice President of operations and human resources, Matthew Jamrog.

/Emma Higgins

/Emma Higgins

Rylee’s Ace Hardware has been operating in the Grand Rapids area for over 60 years.

“When people come in here with a challenge, we want them to leave with a solution,” explains Vice President of operations and Human Resources, Matthew Jamrog. He says Rylee's aims to offer customers a friendly and attentive environment- where no question goes unanswered.

This February, Rylee’s fourth Grand Rapids location at 1205 West Fulton opened, providing the West Side of Grand Rapids with their most comprehensively stocked hardware store yet.

“We hope to be a catalyst in the revival of the West Side area,” explains Jamrog, “statistically the West Side makes sense for our business-there is a similar household density per mile to our popular Michigan Street location.”

“Nothing can bring life to a neighborhood like having all of your fix-up needs at your fingertips,” Jamrog adds.

Rylee’s had to do some fixing-up of their own before they could move into their newest location.

“The lot was previously an abandoned gas station,” says Jamrog, “gasoline had leaked into the ground causing pretty extensive contamination. It took two months to take out the tanks and make that area good again.”

Rylee’s had some help from the city with clean-up costs, but will be paying back their loans through increased property taxes over the coming years. 

The new store is a far cry from the vacant ruin that previously stood there. Compact at just 10,000 square feet, with a different, fresher look to other Rylee’s locations.

“When we are planning a store we really try to take into account the surrounding area and tailor our aesthetics accordingly,” explains Jamrog.

Earth tones and warmth abound, with ground and polished concrete flooring offering an unusual touch. Local children’s interpretations of what their own Rylee’s Ace aprons would look like hang between the aisles.

“For our Fulton street store we have combined urban and industrial design to get the right look for our community, with some whimsy thrown in. We really want this to feel like a hometown hardware destination,” Jamrog says.

Rylee’s has worked hard to include pre-existing local businesses in their game plan. A great example of this is their “Founders Club” initiative; offering all businesses in the 49504 zip code the opportunity to apply for a 10% discount off purchases at all four Rylee’s stores. Businesses can also apply for house or purchasing accounts.

John Sprite at nearby coffee house The Bitter End is glad to see a Rylee's in the Westside.

"Hopefully it will encourage some more developers to move into this area," says Sprite. "It was difficult to see the recent closure of Parkside Foods convenience store and the gas station that was where Rylee's is now- but this new business is ultimately going to be a good thing."

Director of West Grand Neighborhood Association Nola Steketee is similarly positive about Rylee's expansion.

"The West Side is trying so hard to make neighborhoods not only walkable, but sustainable within themselves," she explains. "This new hardware store is a step towards that reality."

"A young couple I know were recently administering repairs on their kitchen; they were so delighted to be able to pick up what they needed just a few blocks away and not have to make the journey across the city to one of the larger hardware stores," Steketee adds.

Rylee's have also been quick to involve themselves in local community proceedings, initiating a relationship with West Side-based Sacred Heart of Jesus school. They partnered with the school for their One Heart at a Time Campaign, where students perform simple household chores for elderly or disabled members of the community.

Jamrog explains that custom ordering has been steadily increasing since their soft opening on February 28, and is expected to pick up after their grand opening this coming weekend April 19-21. “People are already finding the store useful," says Jamrog. "John Ball Zoo have ordered various special plumbing supplies through us- we are really glad to already be of service.”

It isn’t just local businesses that can determine what Rylee’s stocks.

“If we get a customer request for a certain product to be on our shelves then more often than not we will honor that request,” says Jamrog.

Four of the current 11 employees are nearby West Side residents.

"We still have a way to go," Jamrog concludes, "but we are proud to be providing the West Side community with an alternative to big box stores- we care and we are here to help."

Rylee's is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

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