In our era of jumbo-size hardware and home improvement chain stores, a visit to El Cerrito’s Pastime Ace Hardware feels like a trip back in time. Despite offering just about everything you could ever want or need from a hardware store, it’s a manageable size. No endless aisles stacked twenty feet high or forklifts to dodge — just a delightfully cluttered, almost whimsically designed store organized by category with the help of a series of smaller rooms. But the real difference here is customer service. One of the first things you notice upon entering Pastime is the Clerk Service Waiting Area straight ahead. If the store is busy, pull a number and wait for your turn with one of the knowledgeable staffers. At slower times, there’s often a clerk waiting here just for you. Numerous others roam the floor in red polo shirts, eager to offer assistance even before you request it. Such attention to customers’ needs is a rare thing nowadays, and it’s something the world could use more of.