Now playing at Ace Hardware: Makers and Grommets
Oak Brook, Illinois-based Ace Hardware has a new relationship with The Grommet, allowing local Makers to promote their products in Ace stores.
This partership raises two questions: What’s a Maker? And what’s The Grommet?
The first is an inventor or small business that launches an innovative consumer product through The Grommet, which is a product launch platform and a network of Makers – more than 2,200 Makers. The Grommet slogan is “Discover what’s next.”
Ace will debut its collaboration with The Grommet in select Ace stores this holiday season and extending through 2017.
"For 92 years, Ace has stood for local small business; for the underdog who dukes it out against the Goliaths of corporate America,” said John Venhuizen, president and CEO, Ace Hardware Corporation. “So the partnership with The Grommet not only aligns with the passions of our local owners, but fuels our desire to further Ace as the place for the dreamers, inventors, innovators and Makers. We are proud to stand with The Grommet and their platform for local makers."
For the launch, 20 unique products from The Grommet, sourced from 15 local Makers, will debut in over 160 Ace stores; assortments will be updated each season. Products are unexpected, newly discovered and fit within at least one of 10 core values that are central to The Grommet’s discovery process, including: Made in the USA; Sustainable Living; Made for a Lifetime; Tech & Innovation; Handcrafted; Independent Maker; Social Enterprises; Philanthropy; Underrepresented Entrepreneurs; and Crowd-funded.
The Grommet has discovered and brought to market dozens of now household brand names, including FitBit, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and SodaStream. To date, they have launched more than 2,200 innovative consumer products and amassed a community of nearly three million early adopters and supporters.
"Since 2008, our mission at The Grommet has been to launch innovative consumer products and help the small businesses behind them to succeed,” said Jules Pieri, Co-founder & CEO of The Grommet.
True Value stores cut energy use with LED retrofit
An LED upgrade has added to Rosenberg True Value Hardware’s bottom line profitably.
The retailer, who operates two True Value stores in Michigan (in the towns of White Cloud and Grant), switched out the existing T8 fluorescent lamps in the stores in favor of 18-watt, 2200 lumen, 4000K, 4-ft. T8 LED linear tubes (from EarthTronics, Muskegon, Mich.).
“We had researched the idea of changing over to LED lighting,” said owner and CEO Bob Rosenberg. “But, it wasn’t until we discovered the right mix of products that we started to understand that a full conversion made sense. When we combined these products with a rebate incentive from our utility provider, Consumers Energy, we found a cost-cutting solution that would offer a viable, measurable impact to our business.”
The T8 linear tubes, a direct-wire LED, help eliminate the existing florescent ballast and wire AC power directly to the lamp. Earthtronics’ LED linear tubes have a color rendering index above 80 and feature glass tube construction to ensure proper cooling to support high lumen maintenance for a 50,000 hour rated life.
“With LED bulb life at 50,000 hours, we won’t have to replace these new lamps for up to 10 years,” Rosenberg said. This delays future product and labor expense for us. We also learned that LED lighting runs at a lower temperature than florescent lighting, reducing summer cooling costs.”
Instead of purchasing new lighting fixtures for the LED linear tubes, Rosenberg True Value decided to convert its existing eight-foot florescent light fixture to one using four-foot LED linear tubes.
A simple retrofit kit enabled the retailer to forgo the expense of purchasing new light fixtures with additional labor and material costs. It also easily allowed the hardware stores to use the eight-foot metal housing from its existing florescent fixtures and quickly convert them to four-foot LED lighting.
The kit made the conversion from eight-foot tubes to four-foot ones relatively quick and simple. The conversion occurred during hours of operation with little or no inconvenience to the stores’ customers.
“The retrofit kit was easy to install and allowed us to efficiently adapt each fixture,” said Rosenberg. “After a half-day, the installer was able to accomplish each conversion in about 15 minutes per eight-foot fixture. This kept labor costs to a minimum. It also enabled us to complete the whole lighting project in less than three weeks at a labor cost of under $3,500.”
By switching from T8 florescent tube to linear LEDS, the True Value locations were able to decrease the number of the lamps used in the overhead fixtures from four to two, reduce more than 10,500 kilowatt hours and drastically cut their energy bills over the summer. The White Cloud location reduced 5,170 kilowatt hours, while the Grant store cut 4,384 kilowatt hours over the brief summer months.
Rosenberg says initial project analysis estimated a payback period of a little over two years. Ultimately, after the project ended and he received the stores’ third energy bill, Rosenberg learned payback would occur in closer to 18 months. (The total project cost was only $10,700, which includes a $3,300 rebated from Consumers Power.)
“This is the first time we have been able to make a significant cut in what would be considered a fixed expense and succeeded to the point that it will actually improve the health of our business,” he said. “Consumers Power rebates gave us the incentive to pursue a project that led to using LED technology. It is one of the best things that happened to our business in several years.”
Requiem for a hardware brand
First a co-op, then a distributor, then a division of World and Main, the entity formerly known as Handy Hardware Wholesale has had a roller coaster ride since 2010.
The journey seems to have finally come to an end with the sale of the World and Main (Houston) division to Hardware Distribution Warehouses. According to Jimmy Horne, VP of corporate communication for Greenwood, Mississippi-based HDW, none of the Handy Hardware brand, logo or name will be used in any way going forward.
The decade began in 2010 with Handy Hardware Wholesale stabled as an optimistic regional co-op with strength in Texas and surrounding states, a reputation for low prices and an ambitious plan to expand into the Southeast. During the co-op’s 2011 market in Houston, then-president Tina Kirbie described two bold initiatives: (1) A computer system conversion; and (2) the opening of the company’s new distribution center in Meridian, Miss.
Kirbie also looked ahead eagerly to the co-op’s 50th anniversary.
But instead of a bold expansion and celebration, Handy Hardware Wholesale hit growing pains, information technology issues and several new leaders in quick succession. Handy incurred more than $30 million of debt in connection with the building and operation of the distribution center, due to operational challenges and the industry downturn at the time of opening.
The distribution center closed in late 2012. And the company declared bankruptcy with hope of emerging later in the summer. That’s kind of what happened, but not as members had hoped. The company was purchased by Hardware Holdings, part of the Littlejohn & Company group. Handy survived as a distributor, but not as a co-op. And what was once $27 million in member equity in Class A and Class B shares was eventually wiped out.
The company named Doug Miller, a veteran from Spokane, Washington-based Jensen Distributing (now part of Ace Hardware), to take the reins with a focus on basic distribution and high fill rates. In 2014, Miller was replaced by Craig Cowart, who brought experience from Lowe’s, Marvin’s Building Materials and Home Centers, and Your Other Warehouse, a distributor owned by The Home Depot. Cowart will remain president of HDW Houston under the new management structure.
Under Littlejohn’s Hardware Holdings group, which later became World and Main, Handy Hardware was rebranded as World and Main (Houston). And with the HDW acquisition last week, the Handy Hardware saga appears to be at its end.
Key moments in recent Handy history
• December 2010: Meridian, Mississippi, distribution center opens.
• May 2011: Amid IT troubles, Kenneth White assumes CEO post
• December 2012: Meridian distribution center closes
• Jan. 2013: Handy Hardware files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
• July 2013: Doug Miller named CEO
• August 2013: Handy officially acquired by Hardware Holdings, the forerunner of World and Main. Craig Cowart tapped to lead Handy
• January 2016: the debut of the World and Main market, formerly the Handy Hardware market.
• November 2016: HDW acquires World and Main (Houston)