Baskin’s ACE Hardware To Take Over Christmas Tree Shop

by Ryan Bray
Baskin’s ACE Hardware has entered into a 10-year lease to occupy the former Christmas Tree Shop building on South Orleans Road. The business expects to begin operating out of the new space this spring.  FILE PHOTO Baskin’s ACE Hardware has entered into a 10-year lease to occupy the former Christmas Tree Shop building on South Orleans Road. The business expects to begin operating out of the new space this spring. FILE PHOTO

ORLEANS – The sign outside the building at the intersection of Routes 28 and 6A still says Christmas Tree Shop. But soon it will read Baskin’s ACE Hardware.

The longtime local business has entered into a long-term agreement to lease the property, and co-owner Lauren Baskin said she and her team could be open for business in the new location by May 1.

“It is official,” said Baskin, whose father first opened the store at its current location at 28 South Orleans Rd. in 1977. “We signed right before Christmas.”

The 10-year lease includes an option to extend to 30 years, Baskin said.

“In my opinion it will go on beyond that,” she said of the lease, which covers the building and the surrounding property. “We really believe in that spot and we really believe in our business.”

Christmas Tree Shop founders Charles and Doreen Bilezikian purchased the Orleans property in 1982 for $250,000, according to town assessing records. The 1.8-acre parcel has a total assessed value of $2.62 million.

The store was liquidated and closed in July, prompting curiosity and some concern locally as to what business would take over the space. Greg Bilezikian, son of Doreen and Charles, urged town officials to help the family attract local businesses that might have interest in the property after a national chain approached him with interest in moving in.

Baskin and her co-owner and partner, Lynne Colangione, quickly reached out to the Bilezikian family about the space, which has about double the square footage of their current location.

“It was a perfect spot for that time,” Baskin said of the store’s current location. “Now [more than] 45 years later, we’re busting at the seams.”

Greg Bilezikian said that other local businesses, including a brewery, approached him with interest in the site. He also said there was a big push in the community for Trader Joe’s or ALDI to take the space. Some even reached out to Trader Joe’s directly, he said.

“I did talk to ALDI. I did talk to Trader Joe’s,” he said. “Those were the two that were most frequently requested. But distribution was an issue. There’s no way to go but back off Cape Cod from Orleans, and I just don’t think they understand that market that well.”

But Baskin’s came to the table with a firm plan and vision for how they would use the property. In the end, Bilezikian said that made all the difference.

“It was a lot of work, but everybody put their best foot forward and we made a good deal,” he said.

Baskin said conversations with the Bilezikian family got off on “a very strong foot.”

“I’ll never forget meeting Greg Bilezikian,” she said. “He shook my hand in one of the longest handshakes telling me ‘Let’s make this deal happen.’ He looked me straight in the eye, and that’s how the whole thing started.”

The new location will allow Baskin’s to expand its inventory and offerings. It will also allow the store to continue to offer the one-on-one customer service shoppers have come to expect, she said. While the Internet has long offered shoppers an online alternative to brick and mortar stores, Baskin said in hardware, there will always be a need for personalized service.

“I really think that this business model will continue for many decades to come,” she said. “I fully believe in the hardware model.”

The new lease marks an agreement between two Cape families with strong local ties. Baskin’s parents built the current Orleans store and later opened additional locations in Harwich Port, South Dennis, South Yarmouth and Brewster. The Bilezikians, meanwhile, owned and operated numerous Christmas Tree Shop locations on the Cape before selling the chain in 2003 (the family still owns the properties).

“[My mother] looked up to both of them, the mother and the father,” Baskin said of the Bilezikian family. “She kind of looked at Doreen as a mentor to some extent.”

“It’s very exciting to have a local family owned business take over that site,” Greg Bilzikian said. “Everyone’s working to get the store open as expeditiously as possible. It’s really great.”

Baskin said that in the coming weeks, the store will work with contractors to fix up the former Christmas Tree building, including the installation of new flooring. A merchandising plan will also be put together with ACE for the new space, with new inventory coming in as existing inventory is brought over from the current location.

The goal is to begin operations out of the new space between April 15 and May 1.

“What we’ll do is keep the operation at the current location going until we’re fully open at the new location,” Baskin said. “So at one point there’ll be a crossover.”

Efforts will also be made to bring in a new tenant to the existing Baskin’s space at 28 South Orleans Rd. Baskin said ideally the space will be leased to another local business.

“My parents had real ties to the local community, and my mom still feels that way, even at 85,” she said.

While there’s much to be done in the coming weeks and months, Baskin said the move isn’t just good for business, it’s good for the community. It also helps that the whole Baskin’s team is on board with the changes ahead.

“It’s overwhelming, it’s daunting,” she said. “It’s a big change. But the team is really excited about it. The team is really charged, and it’s kind of gelled us as one team together with this big goal that we’re shooting for. It’s really elevated the morale and the excitement.”

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