RealTime IT News Signs Pact with AOL launched an online hardware store with 50,000 items and signed an agreement with America Online to be a tenant in the Home Improvements department of the Shop @ AOL area beginning Sept. 1.

The Web site was designed "to recreate the feeling you get when you shop at your favorite store in your own hometown, the company said. Financial terms of the deal with AOL were not disclosed.

"We are excited about our partnership with AOL and we think it's a great match for," said Robert Curry, chief operating officer. "Consumers already know that AOL is a friendly and safe place to visit and shop, and that's the image that we are creating for as well."

The site offers personal e-mail responses from staff and customized how-to advice. Quincy, MA-based also offers free "Project Centers" in conjunction with and prepared by the National Hardware Association (NHA).

These easy-to-understand how-to's include topics such as how to design a kitchen, install a switch, hang wallpaper or repair a roof.