Jim Junga, sporting a cherry-red shirt embossed with the Ace logo, leans on the counter, chatting with a shopper. After a bit of back and forth, he offers a 10 percent discount on a purchase. She walks away, another satisfied customer.

The expansive service counter, with its large Benjamin Moore paint sign looming overhead, is the first thing a customer notices walking through the front door of Junga’s new Ace Hardware store. Next, often, is an employee offering assistance.

Jim Junga shows why his sales rose 23 percent in 2020, and another 20 percent last year. Photo by J. Adrian Wylie

 “It’s an important benchmark for an Ace store to be service-oriented and we certainly stress that with our team,” Junga says. “And I think that it makes a tremendous difference with the people that come in.”

Tired of paying rent for his first Ace store in the Oaks, a commercial strip just down Michigan Ave., Junga bought a seven-acre parcel in 2017 and spent $2.5 million on site development and construction. The store opened in October 2020, six months into the Covid-19 pandemic.

Because hardware stores were determined to be “essential businesses,” his store never closed—which Junga says “actually played to our benefit dramatically.” Sales were up an eye-popping 23 percent in 2020, driven by Covid and the new store location, and another 20 percent last year. He has had to hire more workers to keep up, going from 26 to 31 full- and part-time staff.

Originally from Toledo, Junga moved to Saline in 1987 to work in corporate management for Johnson Controls. After the recession hit, he began searching for new business opportunities and opened his first Ace store in 2010. The new store is 30 percent larger, at 13,000 square feet, and there’s an additional 1,500 square feet of storage, and 8,000 square feet of outdoor space to accommodate stacks of gardening products such as soil, mulch and fertilizer.

An expanded store has allowed him to beef up offerings of lawn and garden products, grills, and battery-operated equipment, as well as paint, plumbing, and hardware supplies.

The store’s main entrance faces a large parking lot to the rear of the building, but the large Ace logo on the street-side face of the building is easy to spot.

“You don’t miss that Ace sign driving down the road anymore,” Junga says.

Junga’s Ace Hardware, 1220 E. Michigan Ave. (734) 944–9862, Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–4 p.m. acehardware.com/store-details/15166