Danville Express

Newsfront - May 4, 2007

Yardbirds opening set for May 10

Revamped store offers same nuts and bolts, and same manager

by Natalie O'Neill

Alamo will get its coveted weekend hardware hangout back May 10 when the new Home Depot Yardbirds opens its doors to the public after almost a year of being closed.

Fliers were mailed to residents that the opening would be May 3 but the grand opening has been postponed a week.

These days Home Depot Yardbirds will have both hardware and home decor, returning store manager Keith Gilbert said this week.

But that doesn't mean Alamo do-it-yourselfers are going to be bombarded with new-age appliances when stopping by for bolts and light bulbs.

"It's still the corner hardware improvement store," he said, "There's everything a hardware store could have, right here."

There will be a higher percentage of open "showroom" space than a traditional Home Depot, and the store will also have a different look on the inside, with a new, better-planned layout, Gilbert said. Product sections will include building material, hardware, lighting, paint, flooring products and appliances, kitchens and a garden area.

Even with a large showroom space, the company hasn't forgotten about what Alamo residents said they wanted all along - a basic, down-home, well-stocked hardware store, Gilbert said.

"We've listened to those suggestions and we think we've come up with the best selection to satisfy those needs," he said.

The store still has the basics, he said, and the only major product the store has taken out is lumber.

The interior layout of the store has changed drastically to provide a better use of square feet, which includes nine check-out stands, a central customer service desk, more open space, a larger selection of paint, in the front, and three entrances.

"The team asked, 'How we can do more with what we have?'" Gilbert said.

The store size was not expanded and will operate in less than half the space of an average Home Depot.

"It provides an intimate environment," said Home Depot spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher.

Longtime Alamo resident and Yardbirds regular Roy Querio, who has lived in the Valley for 60 years, stopped by Yardbirds this week and said he was happy with what he had seen of the new store.

"Alamo has kept its small-town flavor," he said, noting the store is in line with that vision.

The culture that surrounds the neighborhood meeting point runs deeper than retail, residents say. It's a place where people meet, run into one another on the weekends, and catch up - and this is something Gilbert says he understands.

"People can come in here and shoot the breeze and just have a look - some have already come in and said, 'Wow, it's really nice,'" Gilbert added.

Even with a mega chain moving in, the staff is largely the same, with 25-30 percent of employees returning from the old store.

Part of what made Yardbirds special has to do with the relationships employees and customers have formed over the years, said employee John Smullen. He said the company acknowledged that and has treated him well during the transition period.

"These people cared about our jobs and they didn't have to," he said.

The Alamo store is one of five Bay Area Home Depots scheduled to open this spring. Others include Concord, San Pablo, San Rafael, and Petaluma locations. Four of those five, including Alamo, are considered "Decor" stores.

The company also hopes the new layout and customer service will help "ease transaction times" and lines.

The grand opening is scheduled for 10 a.m., Thursday, May 10, with a dedication ceremony featuring business leaders, neighbors and elected officials. Breakfast will also be served.


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