By Tyler Allen EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – Hardware in Big Sky has found a new home on Lone Mountain Trail, and it was clearly a vertical move.

Ace Hardware – Big Sky opened its new doors on Dec. 8, and not only moved up the hill from its old location on Highway 191, but also increased its retail space by nearly 150 percent. Ace now occupies 13,536 square feet east of Meadow Village Center, with more than 11,000 square feet dedicated to retail.

The new real estate improves on the smaller space, and also allows products to be displayed on one floor. Kevin and Tina Barton opened their business in 1993 and the split-level nature created challenges as inventory grew over the years.

“The aisles were getting smaller and the dividers taller,” said Store Manager Dan Schlapkohl, who joined the Bartons six months after they purchased the business two decades ago.

“This [new] building is designed for efficiency, it’s all on one level,” Kevin said, recalling a particularly busy, zero degree-day last winter at the old location. A delivery driver spent four hours unloading his supplies through the front door – the same used by customers – while the interior temperature dropped from 72 to 48 F.

“We were carrying [products] off the truck to the register for sale,” Kevin said.

The new space also allowed Ace Hardware – Big Sky to open a home wares department, which Kevin named “Sweet T’s” in honor of his wife Tina who passed away in February. She had planned on opening a restaurant of the same name in Big Sky before losing her battle with cancer.

In addition to home wares, Ace has added a pet-supply aisle and vastly expanded the plumbing, paint, electrical and building-supply offerings. Its new location has made it all possible, according to Kevin.

“The visibility on the contractors’ route [from Bozeman] is a big reason for the new location,” he said, noting the old store followed the seasonal ups and downs of a resort town.

With 10,000 new items brought into the Lone Mountain Trail location, those contractors, along with the rest of the community, should have plenty of reasons to stop year round.