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Posted on Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Husband and wife entrepreneurs steer hardware store and yoga studio through changing times

By Lizzy Alfs


Co-owners of Ann Arbor's Carpenter Brothers and Ita Yoga, Armando and Ita Reyes, stand inside the hardware store with their dog, Maya.

Daniel Brenner |

Armando Reyes started scrubbing floors at Ann Arbor’s 40-year-old Carpenter Brothers Hardware & Rental Center in 1996.

Through his years at Huron High School, Washtenaw Community College and Eastern Michigan University, Reyes continued working at the store at 2753 Plymouth Road in the Plymouth Road Mall, eventually earning a manager title.

As Carpenter Brother’s former owner, Sam Hamilton, was preparing for retirement in 2008, Reyes and his wife, Ita, purchased the hardware store.

“We had the opportunity and we took it,” Armando said.

“He’s been the neighborhood kid,” Ita added. “He previously lived over here, too.”


Ita Reyes opened a yoga studio in the Plymouth Road Mall in 2010. file photo

The couple agrees that it was a risk; economic conditions were worsening, Pfizer had shuttered its 177-acre Plymouth Road research facility, and the hardware business was changing amid competition from big-boxes and online ordering.

“We lost, I would say, between 9 and 10 percent of our business when Pfizer closed,” Reyes said. Not to mention, the (Ann Arbor Public Library’s Traverwood branch) left this building, and Bello Vino closed because traffic in this mall went south.”

“We had to adjust and change and we’ve been able to do it,” he continued.

Despite the challenges, in 2010 Ita took on her own business endeavor and opened a yoga studio, Ita Yoga, around the corner from Carpenter Bros. in the same shopping center.

“We had a four-month-old, I had left veterinary medicine and was working at the hardware store, and I was getting in my car and teaching yoga around town.

This space opened up and (Armando) said, ‘why drive around when you can do your own thing?” she said.

The Plymouth Road Mall has some visibility challenges, particularly the Carpenter Bros. space, which is situated on the rear side of the mall and hidden from Plymouth Road.

And with a new retail and office building under construction in front of the mall, visibility is reduced even more. Ita and Armando are hopeful the new building’s tenants will increase the traffic flow to the center.


The under construction Plymouth Road Plaza in Ann Arbor is expected to open this year. Tenants include Starbucks and Dearborn Financial Credit Union.

Daniel Brenner |

“Everything in the front of the mall is now behind something else,” Armando said. “It’s something we have to address.”

With Baskin-Robbins closing shop recently and the Songbird Cafe opening, changes continue at the shopping center, but Ita said business is steady at both Carpenter Bros. and the yoga studio.

“The yoga studio is really busy now and the hardware store is a little slow,” she explained. “Then summer comes and people want to workout outside so the studio is slow and the store is hopping.”

Armando said the hardware store has attracted a loyal following of customers after its 40 years in business, and many of them live on the north side of Ann Arbor. He said he’s always researching competitors’ prices and changing his inventory to keep customers happy. Carpenter Bros. also has an online store.

“You change your product line to match the needs of the customers,” he said. “If you don’t, you go out of business.”

He continued: “That neighborhood feel is still there. You’re competing with big-boxes, but you really can’t put a pricetag on knowing somebody and going into the same store for 40 years.”

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

Great store with helpful staff. I think they might call in a missing persons report if I didn't stop in at least once every weekend!


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

Ita is the best yoga instructor ever. I met her when she taught in Ypsi for a bit and now I make the drive to her classes. She is fabulous!


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

Great story. When I lived on the Northside, Carpenter Bros was our go-to hardware place. Always was a pleasant experience. It was especially great for me, as an architecture student, that they carried a good selection of basswood. When all the other places were sold out during finals, this was my little secret!


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

Most items they are in the ball park on, price wise. At $4/gallon, a trip to Home Depot will cost you an extra $2-3, so they are actually worth it. The staff is more or less on a par with Home Depot. Most are pretty good. That guy that runs the shop in back is super helpful and very old-school hardware store guy (which is a compliment) Glad to have them around and hope they are here for another 40 years.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

Great store - I am happy to pay a little more to support local busineses! Would much rather shop at Carpenter Bros. then Home Depot any day! The best of continued success to both of you!!!


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

I shop regularly at all the hardware stores in town, Carpenter Bros. has a unique selection and sells items I cannot find at the other stores. They really work had at their product offerings. The tool rental area and "fix-it' shop within the store are also two service area that you won't find at other hardware stores. I wish them continued success with the store and the yoga studio!

Dog Guy

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

Look, Billy, no offense but driving farther to somewhere else adds to the cost. And what other store Hatha "OM"ring selection for the handymantra or gate gate Para gate Para sum gate hinges?

Top Cat

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

Armando knows his stuff and is extremely helpful.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

I'm so glad that they are doing well. Ita and Armando are wonderful people :) I wish them continued luck!


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:01 p.m. offense...but I stopped going to Carpenter Bros. over a decade ago because of their insane markup. I went in probably 5 some years ago because I was at work on that side of town and decided on convenience over value....and discovered everything was still 20% or more above other retail locations. Hopeful under the new management their prices have become more mainstream.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 12:37 a.m.

When ever people start with "no offense" it isn't a very positive comment. The reason why there is some markup is the same reason why there is markup at local grocery stores, because they can't possibly get it for the same price as Walmart. The reason why you go to a local hardware store is because they greet you with a familiar face and are extremely knowledgeable.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

I will gladly pay a little more to support a local business


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

This mall has horrible visibility, which the new building is going to make worse. Putting a bank feet away from another bank that is next to 2 banks that is a block from a bank.... I wish them success, but we always forget the hardware store is there.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

love the hardware store-great service desk/rentals and general project help. Thanks so much for being there. Anchor businesses are a good thing. Downtown Ann Arbor has let go of that concept.

Susan Montgomery

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

Typo in headline - entreprenuers

Lizzy Alfs

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:44 p.m.

Thanks, I fixed it. @Rick: everyone makes mistakes!

Rick Stevens

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

You don't expect to actually proofread or check articles do you?

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.


Susan Montgomery

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

It's been great seeing Armando grow in his time at Carpenter's, it's so nice to have a neighborhood hardware store... Thanks for the update, Lizzy, glad to see the Yoga studio is doing well.

Steve Hendel

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

They are great folks


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

I hope for great success for this young couple. It's people like this that made this country great.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 12:52 p.m.

Having tried four other yoga studio's before this one, Ita's is clearly the best out of all of them. I wish her continued success.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

I am looking forward to trying it. I've been going to A2yoga and Center for Yoga a bit.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Have you tried the one in Ypsilanti downtown. Riverside Art Center. I like the people there.


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

Armando has brought a great change to the hardware store. Under previous ownership, most of the staff were remarkably surly and treated a question as if it was a rude invasion of privacy. Going to the store is now a positive experience, the staff very helpful.