Ace brings ‘handy’ home

This hardware partner comes to the customer’s home: Ace Handyman Services.
Ace Handyman Services Tim and Elena Owata
Tim and Elena Owata own Coon Rapids Ace Hardware and their business is an Ace Handyman Services franchisee.

“Right off the bat our phones were ringing off the hook.”

That’s Tim Owata describing becoming an Ace Handyman franchisee. Tim and his wife Elena own Coon Rapids Ace Hardware, located in a northern suburb of Minneapolis, with a population of nearly 64,000.

The owner believed a big part of the handyman experience was the Ace brand recognition. They wanted their service to be an extension of their store – not just ‘the helpful place,’ but the ‘bring helpful to your home,’” as they called it.

Let’s dial back to how this all began.

The story starts with Handyman Matters, a business first founded in 1998 in Denver by Andy and Colette Bell. They grew it locally, expanded it to California, then franchised.

“In 2019 Ace Hardware acquired Handyman Matters and in 2020 it was rebranded to Ace Handyman Services. At the time of acquisition, there were 64 franchisees with 119 territories. Three years later it has grown by 122 franchise owners and 218 territories,” said Andy Bell.

The business was created to improve on home improvement, by providing a professional option for homeowners.

The service people who work for the franchisee, have had background checks, carry insurance, and “don’t ask for a penny from the homeowner until the work is done and the quality is satisfactory. All work performed has a one-year warranty.”

Growth blasts off

The success of the program is rooted in the tremendous amount of trust homeowners have in the brand.

“This led more sophisticated franchise buyers to our essential business model, including Ace Hardware retailers themselves.”

The recent pandemic only served to, “fuel the flames of growth with this essential business.”

With that much growth, there will always be challenges.

Ace Handyman Services has doubled their corporate support and marketing staff to ensure every franchise owner receives the correct support for their growth. “And of course, the labor shortage has had an impact,” said Bell.

Some fast numbers: Currently 186 franchise owners own 337 territories; and 27 are Ace Hardware store retailers who own 48 territories.

“We cover more than 700 Ace Hardware stores with all our territories, regardless of who owns the franchise.”

On average, one Ace Handyman Services territory comprises zip codes totaling 70,000 households and can encompass three to four store locations.

“There is so much more room to grow. This is likely to be a rocket ship, with trust of the Ace brand as a dependable supplier, and so many open territories available,” said Jeff Gooding, corporate VP of marketing at Ace Hardware.

House calls

The owner provided tips for other owners thinking about launching a handyman program: “Use business systems, technology and software, process and procedures that create a scalable business model.

“Keeping track of each handyman and handywoman, what they can do, each customer, what they want done and have had done in the past and making all that run smoothly and delighting customers every time is not an accident.

“It takes work, process, and more than 24 years of experience.”

The American consumer is transitioning from a Do-It-Yourself mentality to a Do It For Me society that purchases more and more home services, he said, and the Millennial generation is the largest.

“They are buying the home, but not the ladder, lawn mower, drill or saw to do any of the home restoration projects they want accomplished.”

Ace Handyman Services group shot
In the Ace Handyman Services program, the average project takes four hours, averages $650, and all work is performed by W2 craftsmen and craftswomen.

Back to Coon Rapids

“Elena and I own a couple of Ace Hardware stores; and rarely a day would go by that a customer didn’t ask if we could have someone come over and work on their project,” said Tim Owata.

He reached out to Colette Bell to ask for more information about the program, and it didn’t take long to know that it was “a perfect fit,” he said, for their business model.

Owata said there is, “a wonderful support team to make sure things go as smooth as possible.”

The owner of Coon Rapids Ace Hardware said it took them a couple months to really get a solid team put together, but once they had that, everything started moving along well.

There were some obstacles too.

“The challenge was not lack of work, rather the lack of qualified craftsmen,” said Owata. “The employee turnover rate is high in the carpentry and handyman trades; this was apparent immediately.”

But he saw the value the service added to his store.

“I know from my own experience before owning an Ace Handyman Service franchise, that there were some apprehensions referring our customers to any service out there without fully knowing the quality of work being done.”

Now he sees, “the high standards that Ace Handyman Services hold their franchises to and can with confidence vouch that this is a great partnership.”

Howdy Pard

The owner pointed out that handyman services help differentiate their hardware business.

“One of the biggest complaints our customers have had with other services is just getting someone to answer the phone or return a call. This is a huge issue,” said Owata.

“Our customers love that we set exact appointments, not just a time window; and our craftspeople are calling the night before to confirm the appointment and go over what needs to be done.”

He said the reviews speak for themselves, as thus far they are maintaining 5 out of 5 stars.

“We strive to be the premium service in the market and even just a few months into opening our franchise, we have many repeat customers already.”

Want to launch a handyman program?

Owata said there’s more work out there than there are people to do it – but the market demands quality of service and communication.

“Set your standards high from the get-go and don’t waiver – be prepared to put in the work,” he said.

Then added: “Ace Handyman Services is a class act. You won’t find a better partner.”

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