Before the invasion of Home Depot and Lowe's, hardware stores were far more than just giant warehouses that force you to wander for hours in search of a rake, shovel, or broom -- let alone a salesperson who will actually take you to the right location. They used to be community gathering places where you'd bump into neighbors while chatting with a clerk about how to tackle your latest home improvement project. Believe it or not, several such stores exist locally, and the best is Ace Grand Lake Hardware in Piedmont. When you walk in, you're immediately amazed by how many attentive sales clerks are milling around. It's as if they were just waiting for you to stroll in so they could say, "May I help you?" -- those four words that have nearly vanished from the modern retail lexicon. Then they have the gall to actually walk you to the right spot to find that citronella candle or sprinkler valve you needed.