Wednesday, May 13, 2020
An Arlington institution, Bill’s True Value Garden Center on Lee Highway, sits vacant with a For Lease sign in the window. Forty-one years ago, the building began as Bill’s Hardware, and in 1988 the hardware store moved across the highway to Buchanan Street. It was replaced by Bill’s Tru Value Garden Center.
Now Bill’s Garden Center has been closed down and consolidated with the hardware store across the street. Mark Ploskina, Bill’s son, says, “so many people were looking to lease that property and the rents got higher and higher.” As the Lee Highway traffic got worse, parking became more of a problem. He says they had wanted to consolidate for a while.
But Ploskina says even though they consolidated two stores into one you can get everything you could get before. “The plants, the mulch, the garden sprays. We fit it all in, up to the rafters. We built a new aisle.” He says the space in the garden store didn’t need to be so big so they were able to move everything there to the other building.
Ploskina says their business has been booming. “Even before the announcement of the pandemic, people were in here buying up supplies. They were looking for anything emergency-related. We ran out of supplies fast.” He says people head to hardware stores whenever any kind of disaster strikes—snowstorms, hurricanes or the pandemic “because we have the stuff you need.”
They have seen the biggest increase in the garden department. “Customers wanted plants in early March, way too early.”
He said the pandemic is a double-edged sword. “It is weird.” He says people are pent up with cabin fever and wondering what they are going to do. So they buy paint and paint brushes. “They may not to able to build a house, but they can paint a room. People get bored and want to get out, so we have more business.”
But he says they can’t have people browsing around the store. They play it by ear and if they get 30 people or so in the store, which is rare, they have to urge customers to shop and leave so new people can come in.
“Don’t bring in the whole family with you.” He adds, “I know it sounds a little harsh. I want to serve the neighborhood, but the store isn’t a playground just because you are bored.”
Ploskina says his dad had a kidney transplant in December and is diabetic “so he has every risk you can imagine and he has been at home.”
“Think before you shop. Shop smart.”