The owner of the Ace Hardware in the Meadowood neighborhood adamantly disputes contentions of Mayor Paul Soglin in my latest column.
Among other points, Soglin said the hardware store was actually closing because of competition from a nearby Home Depot, not because of the crime and worsening neighborhood conditions cited by the owner.
But that owner, Denny Lochner, countered that view to me in an emphatic email Wednesday.
“Mayor Soglin is wrong to state that retail competition put us out of business. Home Depot has been here for 12 to 15 years,” he wrote.
“Our sales dipped slightly the first year they opened and increased almost every year after that. Our biggest sales years were after they opened!”
He also wrote: “The competition has not significantly changed in five years, but our sales have dropped about 40 percent. Other hardware stores have told us customers come to their store with our circulars and ask if they honor the prices because they will not go to the Meadowood neighborhood anymore.
“Let's be clear. They do not say they will not go to Meadowood Ace, they say they will not go to that part of town any more. If it was Home Depot taking our customers, why are they showing up at another hardware store?”
Lochner said customers have told him the issue is indeed the neighborhood: “They all say they regret our closing and agree the reason is the neighborhood not the store itself or the competition.”
He also disputes Soglin’s assertion that the city has actually fixed problems in other neighborhoods.
“The city did not fix the problem in other areas; they relocated it and a new problem area was born. Years ago, before it reached this point, Madison police officers told me to expect the change because it was the strategy in solving the" problem with bad neighborhoods.
(A final point: I incorrectly reported the hardware store had closed; Lochner said an out-of-business sale will last another month. I regret the error.)