Ace Mart

October 1, 2001 by  
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Supplies and Demand

by Tom Lancaster

Longtime residents of Houston might remember a roller rink located at the corner of Chimney Rock and U.S. 59, but only a lucky few know the treasures now lurking inside that building. The enormous structure, which nine years ago hosted freewheeling teen-agers, now holds more glassware, china, flatware and appliances than one can imagine. It is one of three Houston locations for Ace Mart Restaurant Supply.

Gourmet cooking has become the centerpiece of entertaining at home, and for many, plastic cups and paper plates are not an option. But where can one go for a gross of shrimp forks or 50 martini glasses without breaking the bank? Ace Mart is the answer.

There is nothing fancy about Ace Mart. Those accustomed to shopping in warehouse-style stores will be more comfortable than those who stock their kitchens from upscale Galleria shops. But the wide variety of supplies within each Ace Mart store has an appeal that even the most posh retail store cannot match.

In 1975, Norman Gustafson, a real estate entrepreneur, purchased the original Ace Mart, a small warehouse in downtown San Antonio. The company quickly expanded to Austin, Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Now owned by Gustafson’s three children, Ace Mart maintains the feel of a family business despite its enormous showrooms and extensive inventory.

“Our core customers have always been smaller, independent restaurants,” says Carl Gustafson, vice president. “As we have expanded, our ability to serve larger customers and chains has increased.” But the company has not forgotten about the individual retail customer who comes in looking for the supplies that the professionals use. While Ace Mart caters primarily to restaurateurs, the public is welcome in any of its stores.

Houston’s three Ace Mart locations range from 16,000 to more than 20,000 square feet. “Each store has its own personality and character,” says Gustafson, “but the inventory is relatively consistent from store to store.” And inventory is the primary reason for Ace Mart’s success. The stores satisfy customers who cannot wait weeks for delivery or don’t want to risk shopping from a catalog.

Planning a kitchen remodel? Hosting the boss this weekend? Houston’s gourmet set has learned that a trip to Ace Mart is the key to entertaining like a pro.

Ace Mart is located at 5811 Chimney Rock, 3500 I-10 in The Heights and 6700 I-45 South in Gulfgate.

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