ELDERSBURG -- Customers walking past a cardboard John Madden into the new Ace Hardware store in Carrolltowne Mall won't see hardware.
To the right, they'll see silk flowers, wreaths and ribbons. In the middle aisles, they'll see dog bones and cat boxes. It's not until they look left that they catch sight of the nuts and bolts.
"We could just as easily have called it Ace Crafts," owner Pete Peterson said.
The 4,500-square-foot crafts section is the largest section in the 25,000-square-foot store, which will celebrate its grand opening Wednesday.
"This is a ladies' hardware store if there ever was one," said Mr. Peterson, 43, of Millersville.
The Ace store is one of a handful with large craft sections, he said. But the company, with 5,300 stores around the world, is moving more into the craft business.
About 45 of the store's 70 employees will work in the crafts area and will be knowledgeable about crafts projects, Mr. Peterson said.
The store's assistant manager, Deb Shurak, 33, of Marriottsville, is a weaver and worked for many years in specialty crafts stores.
Mr. Peterson, who owns the store with his wife Michele and her parents, Eddie and Krissy Lopez, said he attended hobby trade shows and visited crafts stores around the country before opening the store. He wants it to be a place where customers can buy everything they need for a project.
"Our slogan is, 'Get the right stuff at the right price, right here,' " said Mr. Peterson, who worked as a financial planner before going into retailing 14 years ago.
Ace company officials plan to attend the grand opening to see how the crafts section looks and is faring, he said. The store is the largest Ace Hardware in Maryland, he said.
The new store also is one of two being considered as the site of an Ace advertisement with Mr. Madden, a CBS football commentator and the company spokesman.
The emphasis on crafts doesn't mean hardware is slighted, Mr. Peterson said. One employee has 40 years of experience in the hardware business, he said.
"Everything you need to spiff up your home is here."
About 30 of the store's 70 employees have been hired.
Renovating the store, which is next to Peebles and occupies part of the former Jamesway store, began last spring and cost about $1 million, Mr. Peterson said.
He estimates sales for the first year will be about $3 million. Market studies showed no other craft stores within a 20-minute ride of Eldersburg and a growing population in the area.
"We can come up here and be more things to more people," he said.
The family owns two smaller Ace Hardware stores in Anne Arundel County. They opened a 8,000-square-foot store in Glen Burnie in 1978, and a 17,000-square-foot store in Pasadena five years later.
+ Their goal is to have seven
stores three years from now, including two more in Carroll, Mr. Peterson said.
Michele Peterson, a former teacher, supervises the stores' information systems.
Mr. Peterson said he and his wife plan to move to the Eldersburg area.
"This isn't Main Street U.S.A., but the people are courteous."