Back to the Bricks
Akard True Value Goes Back to Its Roots With New Main Street Store
Photographer / Michael Durr
In February, it dawned on Leigh Ann Akard, owner of Akard True Value Hardware, that in May the company would be celebrating 65 years in Zionsville. She decided that they should do something big to commemorate the occasion. After chatting with a merchant on Main Street who mentioned that it would be great if someone would rent the vacant store across from hers, a light bulb went off.
“You know,” Akard told her friend. “That’s our store’s original location.”
Akard True Value Hardware, a staple in the Zionsville community, relocated to their current location in the Boone Village Shopping Center in the late 1970s. Akard thought about how cool it would be to go back to the exact same spot where they started, especially given how much Zionsville had grown over the years. Within 10 days, she had signed a one-year contract so that they could open a store on Main Street called Back to the Bricks: Akard Village Hardware. They chose the name as sort of a “back to our roots” type of thing. Akard sees it as an opportunity to let people know who they are and how long they’ve been around. Originally, as they were prepping the space to open in the spring, they had hoped to put a sign in the store window on April 1 that read, “No fooling! Look where we popped up!”
Of course, they, along with the entire world, felt like they got pranked on April Fool’s Day when the coronavirus foiled their plans.
“We got our keys on March 15, but March 12 is when everything slowly and painfully began shutting down,” Akard says.
Deemed an essential business, the store was allowed to stay open, and the masses flocked to hardware stores to preserve their mental health by diving into home improvement projects.
“We helped people keep their lives as normal as possible,” Akard says.
For some, that meant painting a bedroom. For others, it meant building a birdfeeder or erecting a deck. As America slowed to a crawl during shutdowns, life amped up for Akard and her staff.
“It was like being on a treadmill and every day the incline kept getting higher and the speed kept getting faster,” she says. “Then when we opened up Back to the Bricks, it was like having one foot on an elliptical while the other foot was still on the treadmill.”
Despite the craziness, Akard couldn’t be happier.
“We say all the time that we are so much more than hardware here,” she says.
Much of that “so much more” has to do with community-service involvement. For instance, this spring they hosted two blood drives at the hardware store. In addition, they are a drop-off location for Sew and Serve and a collection spot for the Caring Centers. Plus, they collect eyeglasses and hearing aids for the Lyons Club and books for Indy Reads.
“I just love this community and the way people come together,” Akard adds. “Not being a big box store, when we hear of a need, we can immediately jump in and help fill it.”
Back to the Bricks celebrated a soft opening in mid-May, but Akard isn’t sure when they’ll schedule their grand opening.
“We want to do it when the community is ready to celebrate because, while some are, many are not yet in that place,” Akard says.
They have learned to keep a stash of dog treats inside Back to the Bricks because pooches often will walk their people inside, which they welcome. Not only do they cater to canines but kids and kitchen fanatics, as well. They have a kids’ section since there is no longer a toy store on Main Street. They also sell kitchen gadgets and trinkets to fill the void of the kitchen store that vacated the area.
“We want to blend in with everything going on down here,” Akard says. “We hope to complement Main Street and give one more reason why you want to shop all these stores.”
Given that this spring and summer have been so strange, Akard is looking forward to getting back to celebrating the little things.
“I agree with the phrase, ‘One day we’ll look back and realize that all of the little things were the big things,’” she says. “It’s all of the little things over the past 65 years that have built us to where we are now. I’m excited to see how these pieces fit together and also eager to introduce people to our history.”
Akard notes that much like the COVID-19 crisis, they have scaled back and realized what their priorities are. The 1,300 square feet on Main Street is in stark contrast to the 25,000 square foot building in Boone Village.
“Going back to 1,300 square feet represents what matters most — the relationships, the involvement in the community,” Akard says. “People want to get out and visit their neighbors.”
Back to the Bricks is located on 120 S. Main Street in Zionsville. For more information, call 317-733-2501 or find them on Facebook.