Learning Express is relocating to the former Architrave space at 1029 Great Plain Ave. making way for a hardware expansion at Needham Garden Center/ Credit: Needham Observer

When one store closes, another store opens — at least that’s how the saying goes in Needham. In this case, as Architrave leaves Great Plain Avenue, Learning Express will move from its Chestnut Street location into that larger space, and Needham Garden Center will expand with a full hardware store into the building it currently shares with the toy store. 

This series of events was precipitated by the closing of Harvey’s, leaving the town without a local hardware store. Needham Garden Center began to incorporate many of Harvey’s services once it became official it was not going to reopen after an electrical fire in February 2022, even hiring one of Harvey’s longtime employees, Dane Miller. Garden Center owner Garrett Graham approached Learning Express owner Paul Sahagian to see if — given the right circumstances — he would be willing to move in order to allow the garden center to expand and fully integrate hardware. 

Sahagian was game. When 1029 Great Plain Ave. became available in November, its larger space, better parking and better visibility were compelling selling points. He signed the lease last week, and painters are already at work. The new store is scheduled to open in early April. 

“I’m excited,” said Sahagian. “It’ll be good after 31 years.” With 400 extra square feet of space, he said he plans to expand the teen and toddler categories, and possibly add a candy section. Most exciting, at least in the short term, is the new slime lab that will be installed in May. Shoppers will be able to select the individual elements such as the slime color and the mix-ins to bring home. “They buy it here and you make it at home,” he explained. “I’ve told some of the kids and they’re like ‘Wow! Oh my gosh!’”  

As for Needham Garden Center, Graham has contracted with True Value to become an official vendor and will offer many of the products and services residents relied on Harvey’s to provide. Once Learning Express moves, Graham said they will renovate that portion of the building, remove the separating wall, shift the garden center over and begin renovating the back half of the store. After July 4, True Value will spend about four weeks stocking shelves with new inventory. 

Proposed design for Needham Garden & True Value Hardware/ Credit: Courtesy Garrett Graham

“We’re going to have a lot more SKUs — thousands — as we add hardware,” said Graham. “But we’re not giving up our garden center focus.” They are changing the name, though, to Needham Garden and Hardware. 

Jeff and Gary Katz, Harvey’s owners, have been instrumental in advising Graham and his team as they began integrating hardware and throughout the process of adding a full store to their business. 

“Since they closed, I’ve been buying inventory from them to help them out. They got left with a lot of stuff,” said Graham. He also said Dane Miller has been helpful with the transition. “He already knows the whole hardware business.” 

In addition to inventory, Graham said the store will also provide services Harvey’s used to offer. “We’re making keys, sharpening knives. We’re in the ‘how do we do screens’ phase now.” 

The addition of a hardware store to the longtime garden center will also provide security for the business itself. “In the winter, as a garden center, we sell ice melt, snow blowers and bird seed,” said Graham. “It’s not dependable. This will make it more dependable.” 

He said he plans to have a soft opening on Aug. 22, with an actual grand opening in September when residents are back from summer and settled in for the school year. 

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