Pleasant Hill hardware store faces hard times

Family-owned hardware store in Pleasant Hill faces hard times

Pleasant Hill hardware store faces hard times
Bill’s Ace Hardware store has been at its current Contra Costa Blvd. location for 16 years.

Ace Hardware: 72 Years and 3 Generations of Community Support.

The rumors are true. Bill’s Ace Hardware store at 1530 Contra Costa Blvd. in Pleasant Hill is closing its doors in August. This is unwelcome news to locals who have shopped there since the 1970s, including the current site for 16 years and two previous spots across the street (at the Grocery Outlet strip mall).

The third generation current owner of Bill’s Ace Hardware, Bill Wygal, says their Pleasant Hill lease expired two years ago and they have struggled to meet increasing rental costs. The coronavirus pandemic has not helped matters. As it is, Bill says hardware stores have particularly high labor costs due to the ratio of sales people required per square feet of retail space.

Search for new location in uncertain times

Bill indicated their search for a new location over the last two years has proven unproductive due to insurmountable rents and regulations. Even prior to the current COVID-19 disruption and unsettled retail economy, brick and mortar businesses fight a daily battle with online shopping, resulting in more building vacancies. But even if and when things settle down, Bill says he is hesitant to enter into a long-term lease that would take him deep into retirement age in this uncertain time.

Pleasant Hill residents are upset at the closure of this family-owned business and haven’t forgotten the closures of countless other local hardware store over the years, including Eames and Orchard Supply. Customers are particularly dissatisfied at the prospect of CVS taking the place of Ace. The prevailing attitude is that Pleasant Hill doesn’t need another drugstore, and Walgreens, Rite Aid, Virginia Hills CVS, Safeway, and Costco are more than enough for this community’s current prescription and drugstore needs. If CVS replaces Ace and provides a drive-through prescription pick-up option, traffic becomes an additional concern. CVS has submitted designs for the city to approve, however, the owner of the property gets to decide who their tenant is, and zoning has no bearing on the decision.

Family-owned business

The majority of people weighing in on say they will greatly miss the friendly and personalized customer service at Ace, the convenience of shopping locally at a smaller store vs. a big box store, and being able to support a long-standing, family-owned business. Bill’s Ace Hardware has been a local mainstay since 1948, when Bill’s grandparents, Bill and Elva Wygal, opened their Ace Hardware store in Martinez. Their strong work ethic and successful business model still drives the third generation of Wygals today. The current Wygal family lives in Martinez and has invested deeply in the community, contributing over $50,000 a year in donations. The trio of Bill’s Ace Hardware stores in Pleasant Hill, Martinez, and Concord employs 160 people in total and is the largest independent Weber BBQ Grill dealer in the East Bay. It has been a Contra Costa County certified Green Business for over 10 years and stands by the “Think Globally, Act Locally” motto.

Bill declares, “I would like to thank the community for their support over the years as it has been a pleasure doing business in Pleasant Hill, employing many of its residents as well as meeting endless numbers of local customers. Thank you all.”

Bill wants people to know that Ace Hardware Corporation has a great program for those interested in buying a franchise, which requires a $1 million investment in California. Visit Thousands of towns across America need a hardware store. Sadly, unless something changes in the next several months, Pleasant Hill will be one of them.

Thank you to the Wygal family for many years of dependable service!

Alison Clary is Copy editor and staff writer for Community Focus, a newspaper for Pleasant Hill and Martinez, CA. You can contact her at