By Joseph T. O’Connor EBS Managing Editor

BIG SKY – At a groundbreaking ceremony on June 30, Big Sky revelers toasted plastic cups of champagne while the local hardware store owner and his staff posed for photos with golden shovels.

The event kicked off construction of a new building for Ace Hardware – Big Sky, which is moving after 30 years, upgrading its real estate in terms of location, services and scale.

The hardware store will relocate to the north side of Lone Mountain Trail east of the Water and Sewer District’s holding ponds.

Designed at 13,536 square feet, the new building will more than double the size of the existing store, which is tucked behind Conoco and Grizzly Outfitters on the River, just south of the Big Sky turnoff on Highway 191.

Owner Kevin Barton says the new location will provide exposure to builders driving up Lone Mountain Trail en route to job sites in Big Sky, Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, Moonlight Basin, and the Yellowstone Club.

“It puts us on the direct route contractors take to the majority of Big Sky buildings,” said Barton, who’s operated Ace for 23 years. “We’ll expand every category and bring in new departments we’ve never had room for.”

A local ownership group comprised of Scott and Pam Altman; Andrew and Suzanne Schreiner; and Scott and Martha Johnson own the 16-acre parcel where the new Ace building is being constructed, and will lease a portion of that land to Barton. The rest of the property will be divided between Big Sky Vacation Rentals and several entities yet to be determined, as well as workforce housing.

The east end of the parcel is zoned for commercial employee housing, which refers to housing set aside for employees of any Big Sky employer, and plans include 39 four-bedroom units, according to Scott Altman, also a sales associate with Montana Living, Big Sky Real Estate.

The new Ace Hardware – Big Sky is slated for completion in October and will be fully operational by Nov. 1, Barton said.