Dusty, The “Store Cat” Is a Favorite With Customers At Popular Smith’s Ace Hardware & Housewares
FAVORITE FELINE: “I’d recommend getting a cat to anyone,” says George Smith, owner of Smith’s Ace Hardware & Housewares in the Princeton Shopping Center. “It’s great having Dusty in the store. He keeps the mice away, and everyone loves him.” Dusty, shown in one of his favorite perches, is the new “star” at the popular store. (Photo by Jean Stratton)
Family-owned and operated, Smith’s Ace Hardware & Housewares has been a favorite with customers since its opening in the Princeton Shopping Center in 2002.
Owner George Smith and his brothers are proprietors of four other hardware stores, including the original Yardville Supply Company opened by the Smith brothers’ grandfather. Yardville Supply is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
In honor of the anniversary, Smith’s Ace acquired a new truck, explains Mr. Smith. “It’s a 1948 red Ford truck, and the customers love it!”
Hardware stores are not only a necessity, they are appealing and entertaining. All those tools, gadgets, and intriguing miscellany! And now, Smith’s Ace Hardware & Housewares is even more entertaining. The arrival of Dusty, “The Store Cat” last March has been a boon to business. With 3,000 customers each week, the store is now welcoming even more eager visitors, who come in to see the friendly nine-year-old gray tabby with beautiful green eyes.
Mr. Smith adopted Dusty from SAVE last March, and as he says, “I went over to SAVE, and looked at several cats, and we decided on Dusty. He was so friendly. Everyone here is a cat person, and the customers are very happy with him too. A lot of people were surprised when we first got him, and now they look forward to seeing him.
“He lives at the store, and is here 24/7. People have brought him toys, and he finds many different places to take a nap. He also likes to follow some of the customers around the store.”
In fact, he has become such a favorite that some people come in just to visit with Dusty, adds Mr. Smith. “Some parents bring in their kids, who are allergic and can’t have their own pet. But they can spend a little time with Dusty. Also, an animal can be a great stress-reliever. Just petting one can be helpful and calming.
“We get here before eight in the morning, and he is ready for breakfast then,” continues Mr. Smith. “And, with 18,000 square feet in the store, he has plenty of room to roam about and find those special hiding places that cats love.”
In addition to visiting Dusty and exploring the myriad hardware and housewares items, customers will find an outstanding fine art supply department, which was added to the store last November.
Under the supervision of Judy Jaquith, the department offers a wonderful selection of art supplies for the beginner to the advanced and professional artist. “I suggested to George that we should add art supplies, There was a need for basic artist-grade art supplies in the Princeton area,” explains Ms. Jaquith, who was formerly with an art supply store in Cranbury, and who is an accomplished watercolorist.
All the Basics
The selection includes a variety of products from Daler-Rowney, an art company established in England in 1783.
“We have all the basics at reasonable prices,” reports Ms. Jaquith. “Water colors, acrylics, oil, and water mixable oil paints, oil tubes and sets. We also have drawing pencils, charcoal, water color pencils, and pastel pencils. FW Artists Inks, including bottles and sets, which can be used for highlighting oils or water colors, for air brushing or drawing, are also available.”
A wonderful variety of brushes in all sizes and styles (shorter handles for water colors, longer handles for oils and acrylics) is on display, and they are sold individually or in sets.
All the paper needs, including hard-bound and spiral sketch books in several sizes, colored paper drawing pads, and water color blocks, are all in stock, as are stretched canvases in different sizes, and canvas panels, also in assorted sizes.
“In addition, we have water color travel sets and post cards,” reports Ms. Jaquith. “You can paint when traveling and send a friend a special postcard that you have painted. Another favorite is our selection of coloring books for adults.”
Both table and floor easels are available, and there is a selection of palettes and assorted palette knives (metal and plastic), and tear-off palettes for oil painting. Indeed, everything for painters at every level, including artist aprons, is part of the artistic array at Smith’s Ace.
Ms. Jaquith is always available to help advise customers about the variety of items, and she enjoys helping customers who may be new to painting.
“I am very happy to assist customers if they want help. Sometimes, someone might be thinking about getting back into painting or taking it up for the first time. We have starter kits in oil, acrylic, and water color for beginning artists. I often suggest that beginning painters start with acrylics. They are easy to work with, dry faster, and are also easy to clean up, just with soap and water for the brushes.
“One thing I like to tell people is to paint as if the paint is free,” she adds. “You don’t want to be constrained. You want to feel free and creative. It’s also fun to mix different colors together. A painting holds together when different colors are mixed.”
Ms. Jaquith is pleased that the numbers of customers appreciating the art supply department are increasing and include all ages. “It’s wonderful to see the kids getting involved. Some schools don’t have art programs, and so the kids can come here and get an art set and start painting at home. There are wonderful sets available. This can be a great gift. We also offer a 20 percent discount for students and members of the Princeton Arts Council.”
Painting offers many benefits, emphasizes Ms. Jaquith. “It’s a creative outlet, and it provides a real sense of accomplishment to express something that is just you — how you feel today. It is very personal.
“Also, painting can be therapy for people of all ages with problems. It is an important way for them to express themselves and what they are feeling. It can be a release.”
Mr. Smith is very pleased with the addition of the fine art supply department, and as he points out, “There is no other hardware store like ours in the area, of our size and quality, or with the art supplies that we have.
“One of the things I love about Princeton is the diversity of customers,” he adds. “We have people coming in the store from all over, from many different countries. I like to ask them where they’re from and how they feel about the U.S. Our customers are a real mix and cross-section, including celebrities, professors, and lots of regulars.
“We always try to fill customers’ requests and keep their needs uppermost. We work hard to offer the best service and quality products at reasonable prices — from 19 cents to $1,000, and everything in between! It’s a great mix of products in a very wide price range. And, of course, now we have Dusty, who is our star!”
Smith’s Ace Hardware & Housewares is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 8 to 5, Sunday 9 to 3. (609) 430-4300.