Bethany Clough

People have been wondering about this empty OSH for months. Now a new store is moving in

Of all the Orchard Supply Hardware stores that sit empty in Fresno, the one in northeast Fresno is perhaps the most talked about.

The store at the corner of East Champlain Drive and East Shepherd Avenue has a new renter – another hardware store. An Ace Hardware store is moving in, with people already working to get the space ready.

Ace is shooting to open by Memorial Day in late May, but it may take longer, said general manager Frank Netto.

The 50,000-square-foot store has been the subject of speculation since OSH’s parent company, Lowe’s, announced it was closing all the stores last summer. There were seven OSH stores in the central San Joaquin Valley.

Many conversations – in person and on the neighborhood’s Nextdoor app – focused on what would become of the space, with rumors of Whole Foods or Fresno Ag planning to take it over.

Fresno Ag was negotiating with the landlord to rent the space for a second location, and employees were talking openly about plans to open there. But the two sides didn’t end up reaching a deal, a Fresno Ag manager told The Bee.

Ace, however, did.

Compared to typical Ace Hardware stores, this one will be “giant,” Netto said.

“It’s one of the bigger ones out here,” he said. “This neighborhood needs it.”

Though many Ace stores are locally owned, this one will be a Westlake Ace, meaning it’s owned by the Ace Hardware corporation.

It will carry most of the same departments that the OSH did, including tools, nuts and bolts, and an outdoor nursery with live plants.

The store will have an expanded barbecue department. Workers were already working on that area Monday morning, Netto said.

And it will have a “huge” pet supply department carrying all sorts of pet products, including dog food.

Netto worked at OSH for years, including some time at that store.

“I really think the neighborhood misses it and we’re here to bring it back,” he said.

A locally owned Ace Hardware has already opened in an empty OSH in Visalia.

The future of the other empty OSH stores is still up in the air. OSH’s parent company, Lowe’s, still holds the leases on several locations.

Ace has declined to comment on whether the company will open any more locations in the area.