By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Gary and Jessica Belfore see their Anthem Ace Hardware as more than a shop selling screws, bolts and tools.

“We’re a heck of a lot more than that,” Gary says.

Instead, the couple focuses on anything that an Anthem resident may need, ranging from home décor to barbecue accessories and “pop” from their home state of Michigan.

“We felt we could give the community something they didn’t have,” Jessica says. “We thought a gift and home décor section would make the store different. It’s a store-within-a-store concept.”

Jessica is the store’s buyer, finding quirky items that are perfect for gifts—artwork, candles, hand soaps, lotions and men’s gifts.

“We have 50 to 100 outside vendors who we order from just in the home décor department,” she says. “We started out small. People love it. We had to remodel part of the store to make it even bigger. We have new products here almost weekly.”

A barbecue section sells rubs and sauces, while the store also carries Faygo pop, a Michigan trademark.

“We have a rack devoted to sauces and rubs from barbecue pitmasters, those who have participated in some of the championship cookoff events,” he says.

“We rotate stuff in and out. When we’re not in COVID, we have barbecue demos here on the weekends where customers can try meat off the grill. We carry grills as well. Everybody’s big into smoking, so we have Traeger Smokers and the Big Green Egg Smokers. We have a really cool griddle that you plug in and you can cook all on one surface.”

To keep things cool, Yeti and Canyon Coolers are found there.

“We round out the whole backyard with patio sets, patio furniture and umbrellas,” she says. “We have a pool department here. We’re a one-stop shop for your backyard.”

The couple, who met at the Daytona 500, moved to Arizona from the Great Lakes State in 2008 when the Great Recession hit. The two worked in marketing for the auto industry.

“Everything came to a screeching halt,” he says. “We came out here looking for something else to do and we bought a hardware store.”

That store was Glendale’s Sine Ace Hardware, a now-109-year-old business. Six years ago, they opened Anthem Ace Hardware. Both stores feature items that are reasonably priced.

“If it’s too much money and we don’t think customers would be interested in that price point, we don’t carry it,” Gary says. “We stay very competitive. We have a very good feel for what the surrounding area would like and what they’re willing to pay. We look for items in that price range. The sky’s not the limit.”

That includes personal protective equipment, which is in stock at the store.

“One of the things we concentrate on heavily is our price point,” he adds. “We will not price gouge any customer at any time.”

That mantra doesn’t compromise the quality of the store’s items. The pet side, which is 3,000 square feet, is geared toward four- and five-star pet foods only.

“We do not sell inexpensive brands,” he says. “We have more than 20 brands of pet food—dog, cats, birds, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs—and we’re growing the ranch department.

“We have stuff for chickens and some supplements and treatments for horses. We’re bringing in horse feed. We specialize in custom orders as well. It’s more of a pet store. It’s a boutique.”

Jessica’s tastes come through in the jewelry department. The couple say it’s fun to watch men shop for jewelry for their significant others.

“They can get a great gift for the women in their life,” he says. “It’s really unique to see that. It makes us feel good, seeing a guy in the hardware store buying jewelry.”

The most celebrated items are those related to Christmas, he says.

“We hit Christmas hard,” Gary says. “We start that process the Tuesday after Labor Day, when things start shipping to us. We put them on the floor.

“We’re a little exuberant for it. The funny thing is, for us, the Christmas season starts for us in January. That’s when you order everything, and it doesn’t end until May. June and July are the only months we don’t think about Christmas. We bring in limited quantities of everything. It’s unique. It’s not like Crate & Barrel or Target. We bring in unique things that are not going to come into any other store.”

Anthem Ace Hardware, 3440 W. Anthem Way, Anthem, 623.551.6800, anthemacehardware.com.

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